Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Freeman, an African-American, began as an "at will" probationary treatment plant operator, collecting and transporting water samples across the mile-long plant. Although operators typically transport these samples in District-owned vehicles, the job description does not require a driver’s license. Three months after Freeman was hired, he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, His license was suspended for six months. Freeman began seeing a substance-abuse counselor. As required by his contract, he told the District about the license suspension and his counseling. He bought a bike and a cooler to transport samples and asked whether he could use a go-cart, which does not require a driver’s license on private property. The District refused to approve a state-approved occupational driving permit that would permit him to drive a company vehicle while working. The District fired Freeman, asserting “unsatisfactory performance.” Freeman alleges that the real reason for his firing was his race and because the District regarded him as an alcoholic. Each of four court-recruited attorneys moved to withdraw. The court dismissed his claims of race and disability discrimination and of retaliation, 42 U.S.C. 1981, 1983; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2; and under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12112. The Seventh Circuit vacated in part. Freeman adequately pleaded his discrimination claims. The court affirmed with respect to Freeman’s Monell contention that the District fired him pursuant to an unlawful policy. View "Freeman v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago" on Justia Law

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Under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, before obtaining any fingerprint, a “private entity” must provide the subject or “the subject’s legally authorized representative” with certain written information and obtain the consent of the subject or authorized representative, 740 ILCS 14/15(b). The private entity must make available to the public a protocol for retaining and handling biometric data and follow rules regarding the destruction of the data. Private entities must protect biometric information from disclosure. Both Southwest and United Airlines maintain timekeeping systems that require workers to clock in and out with their fingerprints. Plaintiffs contend that the airlines implemented these systems in violation of the Act. The airlines contend that the plaintiffs’ unions consented. Plaintiffs argued that a judge should resolve their contentions. The airlines claimed that resolution belongs to an adjustment board under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. 151–88, which applies to air carriers. The Seventh Circuit held that dispute about the interpretation or administration of a collective bargaining agreement must be resolved by an adjustment board under the RLA. Unions in the air transportation business are the workers’ exclusive bargaining agents. Illinois cannot and did not remove a topic from the union’s purview. Its statute provides that a worker or an authorized agent may receive necessary notices and provide consent. Whether the unions did consent or grant authority through a management-rights clause, is a question for an adjustment board. View "Miller v. Southwest Airlines Co." on Justia Law

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Firefighter Mollet became a battalion chief in 2009. His relationships with chief Cohn and assistant chief Weber were strained. One night, firefighter Hernandez forgot to stow his gear. Other firefighters displayed the items and posted a paper sign with a Mexican flag and the words “Border Patrol.” Hernandez did not file a complaint but another firefighter reported it. Mollet emailed Cohn and Weber, who agreed “that this crosses the line of firehouse hazing” and asked Mollet to investigate. Four individuals were eventually disciplined. In the following months, Cohn and Weber were critical of Mollet’s performance on multiple occasions and stated that he might be demoted or reassigned. Mollet received an offer of employment from another department. Cohn and Weber indicated that he would be demoted if he did not take that position. Mollet told Weber he was going to accept the offer, which was contingent upon his passing a physical and psychological exam. Cohn sent a letter accepting Mollet’s resignation; Mollet responded he would not resign until the contingencies were met. Cohn responded that Mollet’s employment had terminated. Mollet was placed on paid leave until he submitted his resignation and began his new employment. Mollet filed suit, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, alleging he was retaliated against for opposing workplace discrimination. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment rejecting the claim; no reasonable trier of fact could find that reporting the Hernandez incident was the but-for cause of Mollet’s constructive discharge. View "Mollet v. City of Greenfield" on Justia Law

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Richardson began working for CTA in 1993. Richardson weighed 350 pounds in January 2005 and weighed 566 pounds in May 2009. Richardson suffers from hypertension and sleep apnea. In 2010, Richardson was absent from work because he had the flu. CTA’s medical provider documented that could not return to work until he controlled his blood pressure. CTA transferred Richardson to Temporary Medical Disability. When Richardson was physically fit to work, he had to be cleared for safety because CTA bus seats are not designed for drivers weighing over 400 pounds. Assessment instructors noted that: Richardson had his foot on the gas and brake at the same time; Richardson was unable to make hand-over-hand turns; Richardson’s leg rested close to the door handle; Richardson could not see the floor from his seat; part of Richardson’s body hung off his seat and the seat deflated when Richardson sat. Richardson was “sweating heavily,” needed to lean onto the bus for balance, and had a “hygiene problem.” CTA proposed to return Richardson to disability to work with doctors to lose weight; Richardson would release his ability to bring various claims. Richardson refused. In 2012, CTA terminated his employment. The district court rejected Richardson’s claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101–12213. The Seventh Circuit affirmed; extreme obesity only qualifies as a disability under the ADA if it is caused by an underlying physiological disorder or condition. Richardson offered no such evidence. View "Richardson v. Chicago Transit Authority" on Justia Law

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From 2007-2016, Trujillo worked as a manager of several Ashley Furniture HomeStores in the Chicago area. These stores were owned and operated by Rockledge Furniture LLC, a Wisconsin limited liability company associated with Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc., a Wisconsin corporation. Trujillo was fired and then filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging age discrimination and retaliation. In the charge, he listed the name of the Illinois store where he had worked— Ashley Furniture HomeStore, with the address and telephone number of the store. The correct legal name of Trujillo’s employer, however, was Rockledge Furniture LLC. The district court dismissed Trujillo’s claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies because he did not name his employer sufficiently and because the EEOC never managed to notify the correct employer of Trujillo’s charge. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Trujillo named his employer sufficiently in his original EEOC charge, and when his lawyer later sent his pay stub with Rockledge’s name and address, he removed any doubt about the employer’s identity. The EEOC’s error in processing his charge does not bar Trujillo from suing his employer. View "Trujillo v. Rockledge Furniture" on Justia Law

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In 2002, the University hired LaRiviere as an Assistant Director of Building Maintenance. In 2011, LaRiviere learned that her supervisor was retiring and asked if the University would waive requirements that the position be publicly posted and filled by someone with an engineering degree. An administrator declined to disregard those requirements and hired Fuligni, a 30‐year Navy veteran who had served as a civil engineer with supervisory authority over hundreds of employees. LaRiviere filed two unsuccessful state court discrimination lawsuits. Fuligni hired Meyer to fill a newly created Associate Director position. LaRiviere reported to Meyer. Over the next several years, LaRiviere had several conflicts with coworkers and supervisors. Notwithstanding these incidents, Lariviere received positive performance reviews. In 2016, the University notified LaRiviere that her employment would end in a year. Fuligni transferred her to a different, newly-constructed building, LaRiviere identified a number of deficiencies. Maintenance immediately addressed those concerns, except for the high humidity. The University replaced LaRiviere, an African-American with a Caucasian man without a college degree. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. LaRiviere has not identified evidence that her ethnicity was the reason for her termination or of a causal connection between a protected activity and her termination. View "LaRiviere v. Board Trustees of Southern Illinois University" on Justia Law

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Metal Technologies (MT), a Bloomfield, Indiana manufacturer of automobile parts, employs around 500 workers. Plaintiffs filed class and collective actions against MT, alleging violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act and Indiana wage laws. They argued that MT unlawfully paid employees only for the hours that they were scheduled to work even when employees’ timestamps showed that they were clocked in for longer than that. The district court conditionally certified—but later decertified—those claims. After decertification, the plaintiffs proceeded in their individual capacities and secured a very modest award. They also contended that MT withheld wages from employees’ paychecks for uniform rentals; Indiana law authorized withholding only for uniform purchases. The district court entered judgment for the class on those claims. While appeal was pending, Indiana amended its law to authorize withholding for uniform rentals and made that amendment retroactive. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the decertification order but vacated and remanded for reconsideration of the wage-deduction claim in light of the new law, which will likely also require recalculation of attorneys’ fees and costs. Plaintiffs failed to provide evidence that employees were actually working without compensation, not simply that they were clocked in for over 40 hours, and lacked proof of any injury. View "Weil v. Metal Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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Kenco employed Madison as a quality engineer from May 13 until August 9, 2013. Kenco provided warehousing services to Mars, a global manufacturer of food products. Madison alleges that her discharge followed adverse employment actions Kenco took in retaliation for food safety concerns she had raised with her superiors. Following her discharge, Madison filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), seeking whistleblower protection. OSHA dismissed her complaint. In a de novo proceeding conducted at Madison’s request, an ALJ entered a summary decision against her. The Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board dismissed her appeal as untimely. The Seventh Circuit denied her petition for review. Regardless of whether the agency’s mistake in directing the initial mailing of the ALJ’s decision to counsel’s former address amounts to an extraordinary circumstance which stood in the path of Madison’s pursuit of her rights, Madison cannot show that the Board abused its discretion in refusing to equitably toll the statutory appeals period long enough to deem her appeal timely. Subsequent events removed any obstacle that may have prevented her from filing a timely appeal. After a second mailing and email correspondence, Madison’s counsel could be expected in the exercise of due diligence to take action more quickly than he did. View "Madison v. United States Department of Labor" on Justia Law

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Sparre began working as a Norfolk locomotive engineer in 1999. In 2010, he reported a safety violation to the Federal Railroad Administration, which resulted in the assessment of an $8,000 civil penalty against Norfolk. In 2014, Norfolk terminated Sparre for excessively exceeding the speed limit while operating a locomotive. Sparre complained to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, alleging Norfolk fired him in retaliation for reporting the safety concern in 2010, which would violate the Federal Railroad Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 20109. OSHA dismissed Sparre’s complaint as without merit. Sparre requested a hearing before an administrative law judge. The parties engaged in years‐long, extensive discovery. In November 2017, the ALJ found there were no genuine issues of fact and granted Norfolk a summary decision. The decision, with instructions to petition for review, including the 14‐day timeline, was mailed to Sparre and his attorneys that same day. Thirty days later, Sparre appealed to the Board and filed a petition for judicial review. The Seventh Circuit remanded to the Board, which found that Sparre’s petition was untimely and he was not entitled to equitable tolling. Sparre filed a second appeal. The Seventh Circuit rejected the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Sparre failed to timely exhaust his administrative remedies before appealing. View "Sparre v. United States Department of Labor" on Justia Law

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Levitin, a Jewish surgeon of Russian descent, owns and operates a private medical practice. From 2000-2013, most of her revenue came from her work at Northwest Community Hospital, where she maintained practice privileges. In 2008 Levitin complained to Northwest that Dr. Conway, another surgeon, was harassing her, repeatedly criticizing her medical decisions, undermining her in front of her patients, and interrupting her in surgery. Northwest reprimanded Conway. Direct harassment stopped. Several doctors subsequently filed complaints concerning Levitin’s professional judgment. One refused to work with her. The chair of Northwest’s surgery department informed Levitin that he would begin proactively reviewing the surgeries she scheduled for potential issues and reviewed Levitin’s prior surgeries. He referred 31 cases to the Medical Executive Committee, which found that Levitin deviated from the appropriate standard of care in four cases and initially concluded that Levitin should receive quarterly reviews. The Committee reconvened following an incident in which Levitin operated on a patient without proper sedation and voted to terminate her practice privileges. Northwest’s Board of Directors terminated Levitin’s practice privileges. She filed suit, alleging antitrust claims, state-law claims, and a claim for employment discrimination based on sex, religion, and ethnicity under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of her claims, finding that Levitin was not an employee. View "Levitin v. Northwest Community Hospital" on Justia Law