Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Winsted was 42 years old when he applied for disability benefits, asserting an onset date of October 2010. Although he initially alleged he became disabled in 2005, two prior applications alleging this onset date were denied and deemed administratively final. Winsted suffers from multiple physical impairments, including degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, and anxiety, mostly associated with his previous work in hard labor as an industrial truck driver, a highway maintenance worker, and an operating engineer. An ALJ denied benefits, finding that Winsted could work with certain limitations. The district court affirmed. The Seventh Circuit remanded. The ALJ did not adequately explain how the limitations he placed on Winsted’s residual functional capacity accounted for the claimant’s mental difficulties; the ALJ did not consider Winsted’s difficulties with concentration, persistence, and pace. View "Winsted v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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JCB, an Indiana state-chartered bank, had an agreement with INVEST, a registered broker-dealer, to offer securities to JCB customers. In 2017, JCB assigned DuSablon to assist in identifying and establishing an investment business with a new third-party broker-dealer. DuSablon failed to do so and abruptly resigned. JCB learned that DuSablon had transferred customers’ accounts from INVEST into his own name and had started a competing business. JCB sought a preliminary injunction, asserting violations of the Indiana Uniform Trade Secrets Act, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, tortious interference, unfair competition, civil conversion, and computer trespass. DuSablon moved to dismiss, arguing that JCB lacked standing and that Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) rules barred the suit; he removed the case, asserting exclusive federal jurisdiction under 15 U.S.C. 78aa and the Securities and Exchange Act. Although JCB did not plead a federal claim, DuSablon contended that JCB’s response to his motion to dismiss “raises a federal question as all of [JCB’s] claims ... rest upon the legality of direct participation in the securities industry which is ... regulated by the [Securities] Act.” The district court remanded,, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction and that removal was untimely, ordering DuSablon to pay JCB costs and fees of $9,035.61 under 28 U.S.C. 1447(c). The Seventh Circuit dismissed an appeal. DuSablon lacked an objectively reasonable basis to remove the case to federal court. View "Jackson County Bank v. DuSablon" on Justia Law

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Kopplin, a former train conductor, brought claims of negligence and negligence per se against the Wisconsin Central railroad under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. 51, alleging that Kopplin injured his elbow in trying to operate a broken railroad switch on January 24, 2014. The district court granted the railroad summary judgment because Kopplin could not prove that the broken switch caused his injury. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. A video of the incident shows no immediate signs of injury and Kopplin never mentioned any pain to his coworkers until two hours later. He had continued to perform other physical tasks. Kopplin’s sole causation expert conceded, in a deposition, that he knew so little about Kopplin’s job that it would be mere speculation to say throwing a switch even could cause the elbow injury and that he did not investigate whether Kopplin’s other physical activities could have caused his renewed elbow problems. That expert later provided an affidavit in which he definitively stated that the January 24 incident caused the elbow injury, explaining that the nature of the injury was so clear that there was no need to even consider other potential causes. The judge refused to consider the affidavit because it contradicted sworn deposition testimony. View "Kopplin v. Wisconsin Central Limited" on Justia Law

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Cervantes began working as an Ardagh pallet loader in 1991. He was promoted to forklift driver, then to electro‐mechanic in 2000. On June 20, 2015, after completing his shift, he remained at the Ardagh facility to assist his father, an Ardagh employee, with fixing a machine. Supervisor Stewart unsuccessfully attempted to call Cervantes on his radio. When Stewart located Cervantes, he explained that he had not responded because he was not working a second shift. Stewart stated that if he was not accepting second shift assignments, he must leave. He eventually complied. Cervantes was written up for insubordination and temporarily suspended. Following an investigation, Ardagh demoted Cervantes to forklift driver. Cervantes filed a charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, claiming only “Retaliation.” He did not check boxes for race, national origin, or any other basis of discrimination. The IDHR dismissed the charge. Cervantes sued under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 20003 and the Illinois Human Rights Act, claiming Ardagh failed to promote him, issued him performance warnings, and demoted him based on his race and national origin and in retaliation for his previous complaints about harassment and discrimination. The district court granted Ardagh summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Cervantes did not exhaust his administrative remedies for his discrimination claims. His retaliation claim fails because there is no evidence of a causal connection between any protected activity by Cervantes and an adverse employment action by Ardagh. View "Cervantes v. Group" on Justia Law

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Scheidler, employed by the Indiana Department of Insurance (IDOI), sought accommodations for disabilities related to her mental health. She asked, among other things, that her coworkers not startle her. She received these accommodations for several years. In May 2013, a frustrated supervisor reached toward Scheidler and said, “I could just strangle you.” An investigation into the incident discovered that several months earlier Scheidler commented in an elevator about a coworker’s apparent promotion prospects: “It’s who you know and who you blow.” IDOI terminated Scheidler. She sued for disability discrimination, retaliation, and other claims. She lost some claims at summary judgment and the rest at trial. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The closest Scheidler comes to advancing a failure-to-accommodate claim is under the theory that she asked her coworkers not to startle her, but the supervisor threatened to strangle her in an episode that was an isolated, “one-off” event. Scheidler claimed that her elevator comment was statutorily protected activity but the court held she failed both the subjective and objective factors because she did not have a sincere, good-faith belief she opposed an unlawful practice and because her comment did not involve discrimination prohibited by Title VII. View "Scheidler v. Indiana" on Justia Law

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In March 2014, Kleber, an attorney, applied for a senior inhouse position in CareFusion’s law department. The job description required applicants to have “3 to 7 years (no more than 7 years) of relevant legal experience.” Kleber was 58 and had more than seven years of pertinent experience. CareFusion hired a 29-year-old applicant who met but did not exceed the experience requirement. Kleber filed suit, alleging disparate treatment and disparate impact under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 623(a)(2). The district court dismissed Kleber’s disparate impact claim, reasoning that the text of section 4(a)(2) did not extend to outside job applicants. Kleber then voluntarily dismissed his separate claim for disparate treatment liability to appeal. Following en banc review, the Seventh Circuit affirmed. The plain language of section 4(a)(2) makes clear that Congress, while protecting employees from disparate impact age discrimination, did not extend that same protection to outside job applicants; that reading is reinforced by the ADEA’s broader structure and history. View "Kleber v. CareFusion Corp." on Justia Law

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Calvert was the sole owner of E.L.C., an electrical contracting company. After a labor organization unsuccessfully campaigned to unionize his workforce, Calvert laid off most of E.L.C.’s electricians, effectively preventing future unionization attempts. The NLRB determined that E.L.C. violated the National Labor Relations Act prohibition on discrimination against workers for exercising their statutory rights, 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(3) and ordered E.L.C. to compensate the electricians with backpay. Calvert shifted E.L.C.’s operations to new corporate entities. The NLRB discovered Calvert’s plan and held him personally responsible for the backpay award. Facing more than $400,000 in liability, Calvert filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The Board argued that the debt was not dischargeable because it arose from a willful and malicious injury, 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(6). Calvert denied that he acted maliciously. The bankruptcy judge declined to apply collateral estoppel and found that Calvert had not acted maliciously, so the debt was not exempt from discharge. In the district court, the Board again raised collateral estoppel but failed to analyze the elements of the doctrine or provide citations to the agency record. The district judge and Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Board did not challenge the evidence or the factual findings but based its entire case on collateral estoppel while providing only a generalized discussion of preclusion doctrine that is untethered to specific findings. View "National Labor Relations Board v. Calvert" on Justia Law

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In November 2016, two plaintiffs sued Metra and several of its employees, alleging racial discrimination under 42 U.S.C. 1983. An amended complaint named 11 plaintiffs and 10 defendants, with additional claims of racial discrimination and a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act; it described instances in which African-American employees were treated differently than white employees. Defendants asserted it was impossible to discern the alleged acts attributable to the individual defendants, and that the amended complaint contained incorrect numbering and failed to assert wrongdoing against five defendants. The plaintiffs did not respond. Plaintiffs then submitted the wrong version of a second amended complaint. After a hearing, the plaintiffs filed an amended second amended complaint, with claims by 12 plaintiffs against Metra and 11 employees, alleging racial discrimination; hostile work environment; disparate treatment; negligent and intentional infliction of emotional harm; discrimination under the Fourteenth Amendment; discrimination under Title VII, the Illinois Civil Rights Act, and the ADA; retaliation; and breach of contract. Defendants claimed the breach of contract claim was preempted by the Railway Labor Act, the Illinois Act has no application in employment law, and that Title VII and the ADA only authorize suits against employers, not individuals. The court denied the plaintiffs’ motion to file a third amended complaint. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The plaintiffs had ample opportunity to address the deficiencies and waived their arguments in opposition to the motion to dismiss. View "Lee v. Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corp." on Justia Law

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Fare Foods hired Swyear as an outside sales representative in 2015. Swyear claims Porter (an owner) indicated that she would be the first female outside sales representative and expressed concern regarding her ability to perform effectively in a male-dominated field. Porter later testified that he liked hiring a woman because they could get men to do things like unload delivery trucks or make sales and that Fare employed several female outside sales representatives before Swyear. Swyear noticed the work environment was sometimes unprofessional; male employees used offensive nicknames, discussed the sexual activities of other employees, and talked about how one female employee dressed inappropriately. Porter testified that he was aware of and may have used the offensive nicknames. Swyear did not tell anyone she was offended nor did she make any formal or informal complaints. At one point, Swyear reported that a fellow representative had made overtures to her during a business trip. The company investigated but decided that discipline was not required. After two reviews, during which Swyear was given instructions about improving her job performance with respect to punctuality and use of company vehicles, Swyear’s employment was terminated. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection, on summary judgment, of her claims of sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, and breach of contract. View "Swyear v. Fare Foods Corp." on Justia Law

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Ross worked as a coal miner for approximately 30 years. He smoked cigarettes for almost as long but was able to quit after his first heart attack. Ross continued to work as a coal miner even though he suffered another heart attack and had difficulty breathing at work. Approximately six years after Ross stopped working in the coal mines, his breathing problems became severe. In 2012, Ross sought benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act, 30 U.S.C. 901. The Department of Labor’s Benefits Review Board vacated a denial. On remand, the ALJ granted Ross’s claim. The Board affirmed. The Seventh Circuit enforced the decision. Rejecting a due process argument, the court noted the employer had the opportunity to argue its case twice before the ALJ and twice before the Board, including the chance to submit supplemental medical opinion evidence. A theory that something must be amiss because the ALJ changed his mind on remand is particularly unpersuasive here because the parties submitted five additional medical opinions after the Board’s second decision. Ross proved by a preponderance of the evidence that he was totally disabled. View "Consolidation Coal Co. v. Director, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, United States Department of Labor" on Justia Law