Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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From 2008-2012, Stuckey worked as an AutoZone manager and was transferred between Chicago-area stores several times. None of the transfers entailed any loss in pay, benefits, or responsibilities. In 2012 he was transferred again, this time from a store on Kedzie Avenue that serves a largely Hispanic clientele. Stuckey never reported for work at his new assignment. He filed an EEOC complaint. Stuckey is black; he claimed that AutoZone transferred him out of the Kedzie location in an effort to make it a “predominantly Hispanic” store. The EEOC filed suit on Stuckey’s behalf alleging that the transfer violated 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2(a)(2), an infrequently litigated provision of Title VII that makes it unlawful for an employer “to limit, segregate, or classify his employees … in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for AutoZone, holding that the transfer was not an adverse employment action. The court rejected EEOC’s argument that the statute does not require the claimant to prove that the challenged action adversely affected his employment opportunities or status. View "Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. AutoZone, Inc." on Justia Law

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Hanson provides public refrigerated warehousing and transportation services. It employs dozens of workers in Michigan and Indiana. Teamsters Union Local 142 filed a petition to be the exclusive collective‐bargaining representative for a subset of Hanson’s Indiana employees; 37 employees voted. Hanson and the union disputed two of the votes, a sufficient number to affect the outcome of the election. Hanson argued that one vote should not count, claiming that the voter’s intent could not be discerned from the ballot; the union argued that another vote should not count, claiming that the voter was not employed by the employer at the time of the vote. The National Labor Relations Board rejected Hanson’s argument and counted the first disputed vote as a vote in favor of representation, then concluded that the second disputed vote was no longer outcome determinative and certified the union. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding it impossible to divine the voter’s intent from the face of the ballot. View "National Labor Relations Board v. Hanson Cold Storage Co. of Indiana" on Justia Law

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Nicholson has been a Peoria police officer since 1991. In 2003, she became the Asset Forfeiture investigator. Five years later, Nicholson had serious issues with fellow officer Wilson, whom she accused of using department equipment to place her under surveillance. The department conducted an investigation, after which Wilson was suspended for 20 days Nicholson then filed an EEOC charge of discrimination, followed by a lawsuit, which was settled. A new Rotation Policy, implemented in 2012, provided that all specialty assignments, including the Asset Forfeiture investigator position, were subject to three-year rotations. Nicholson sought reappointment. According to the panel that interviewed her, Nicholson “[i]nterviewed very poorly, seemed angry [and] controlling.” She began her interview by refusing to answer questions until she read aloud a nine-page manifesto. The panel selected another officer. After failing to retain the Asset Forfeiture position and having not applied to any other position, Nicholson was reassigned to patrol by default. Nicholson filed another EEOC charge, alleging that sex discrimination and unlawful retaliation. She then filed suit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of defendants, stating that Nicholson did not present enough evidence to survive summary judgment on either claim and that her motion to recuse the judge was frivolous. View "Nicholson v. City of Peoria" on Justia Law

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Ferrill was hired as Edgewood Elementary School's principal for an initial two-year term with an automatic third-year rollover unless the Board of Education opted out. Ferrill is black; the district serves predominantly white suburbs on the southern edge of Milwaukee County. While she was principal, Edgewood's staff had exceedingly low morale. Ferrill had multiple performance complaints. Staff described her as confrontational, inconsistent, and quick to claim racism. The superintendent hired a consultant to improve Ferrill’s performance. The consultant recommended termination. The Board opted out of the rollover, at the superintendent's recommendation. Ferrill found a new job, which the Board treated as a functional resignation. She sued, alleging racial discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and 42 U.S.C. 1981, and retaliation under Title VII and the First Amendment. The district judge granted the Board summary judgment on some claims. A jury rejected others after less than 30 minutes of deliberation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Ferrill’s shortcomings were well documented and confirmed by an independent consultant, so she did not establish that she was meeting legitimate performance expectations and thus did not establish a prima facie case of discrimination. The retaliation claim failed for lack of evidence connecting the Board’s decision to activity protected by Title VII. View "Ferrill v. Oak Creek-Franklin Joint School District" on Justia Law

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Tibbs, an administrative assistant in the Illinois court system, was suspended the day she returned to work after taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. 2601. She was then fired after she chose not to attend a disciplinary meeting. Her supervisor, a judge in the judicial circuit in which she was employed, sent a letter citing several instances of misconduct, including insubordination. Tibbs sued the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, contending that the agency employed her and that she was fired in retaliation for taking FMLA leave. The district court granted summary judgment for the agency, reasoning that it never employed Tibbs and thus could not have discharged her, and that in any event, there was no evidence of retaliation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Tibbs cannot point to evidence from which a jury could reasonably infer that any of her supervisors harbored retaliatory animus against her. The court did not resolve the question whether the Administrative Office employed Tibbs. View "Tibbs v. Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts" on Justia Law

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In 1952, the patent for a “Composite Fire Door,” issued to Owens‐Illinois. The patent claims never specifically mention asbestos, but describe a fire door with a “core of inorganic, rigid, fireproof, lightweight material of a substantially uniform apparent density and consistency throughout.” In 1956, Owens‐Illinois licensed the patent to Weyerhauser’s predecessor. Until 1978, its Marshfield, Wisconsin plant produced fire doors that used asbestos as a thermal insulator. The plaintiffs were all employees of that Marshfield plant and developed mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of their claims as covered by the exclusive remedy provisions of Wisconsin’s Worker’s Compensation Act, Wis. Stat. 102.03(2). The court rejected an attempt to avoid that bar by recharacterizing their injuries as occurring off the job based on a “public nuisance” theory involving ambient asbestos. The court characterized the claims against Owen‐Illinois claims as frivolous. View "Masephol v. Weyerhaeuser Co." on Justia Law

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In 2012, Jefferies, a securities and investment-banking firm, hired Frawley as its vice chairman and global head of metals and listed products. On the same day, Jeffries hired Webb, a sales executive in the global metals group headed by Frawley at a firm they had previously worked for, and Beversdorf, a director of that group. Webb and Beversdorf signed employment contracts, consenting “that any arbitration proceeding brought with respect to matters related to your employment or this Agreement shall be brought before [Financial Industry Regulatory Authority] … or if the parties are permitted … [or] to the personal jurisdiction of the state and federal courts. “ In 2013 Jefferies decided to get out of the iron ore business and ordered Frawley to tell Webb and Beversdorf to stop trading iron ore. Frawley did not tell them but pushed for more iron ore trades. Months later, Jefferies fired the two, who sued Frawley. Frawley successfully moved to compel arbitration. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part, concluding that Beversdorf agreed to arbitration. Webb, however, did not sign such an agreement; the document he signed was just an agreement concerning venue. Webb remains free to litigate his dispute with Frawley in federal court. View "Webb v. Frawley" on Justia Law

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Dismissal for failure to exhaust collective bargaining agreement (CBA) grievance process was improper where it was unclear that CBA required resort to that process for claims under Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Vega worked for Forest as a seasonal employee, subject to a CBA that included a mandatory four-step procedure culminating in arbitration to resolve employee grievances. Forest terminated Vega. At the time, Vega was owed compensation for 54 hours of work in the preceding two weeks. Forest did not tender a final paycheck, purportedly because it discovered that Vega lacked a valid Social Security number and it did not know how to lawfully make payment to him without such a number. The parties dispute whether Vega made efforts to initiate a grievance. The district court dismissed Vega’s suit under the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. 206(b), for failure to exhaust the grievance procedure. The Seventh Circuit reversed, stating that the collective bargaining agreement did not clearly and unmistakably waive Vega’s right to pursue his FLSA claim in a judicial forum. The district court did not consider whether the CBA required Vega to resort to the grievance process when he is pursuing rights granted to him by the FLSA rather than the contract itself. View "Vega v. New Forest Home Cemetery, LLC" on Justia Law

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Appeal of dismissal of challenge to city’s order requiring that police officers cover tattoos was rendered moot by city’s revocation of the order. Plaintiffs, military veterans employed as Chicago police officers, have tattoos relating to their military service and religion. The department issued an order without prior notice, requiring all officers on duty or otherwise “representing” the department to cover their tattoos. The announced reason was to “promote uniformity and professionalism.” Plaintiffs complained that covering their tattoos with clothing caused overheating in warm weather and that cover-up tape irritated their skin. The complaint sought a declaratory judgment that the order violated theirs’ First Amendment rights, attorneys’ fees and costs, and “other legal and/or equitable relief.” Without addressing class certification and before discovery, the court dismissed the suit on the merits, finding that wearing tattoos was a “personal expression,” not an effort at communicating with the public on matters of public concern, and was not protected by the First Amendment. Meanwhile, the police union filed a grievance. An arbitrator ruled that the order violated the collective bargaining agreement. The city conceded and agreed to reimburse officers for expenses in complying with the invalidated policy. The Seventh Circuit directed that the judgment vacated as moot. View "Medici v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Dead Man’s Act barred testimony regarding now-deceased employer’s response to being told employee would file a worker’s compensation claim. Plata sued Eureka under 42 U.S.C. 2000e, claiming that he was fired in retaliation for having filed such a claim. He claimed that Bittner, Eureka’s owner, told him he was “done” after he told Bittner that he intended to file the claim. Bittner died suddenly, leaving Plata the only witness to the conversation. Eureka cited the Illinois Dead Man’s Act, 735 ILCS 5/8-301, which “forbids a party to a suit by or against a firm to testify about any conversation with a dead agent of the firm, unless a living agent of the firm was also present.” Federal Rule of Evidence 601 states that “in a civil case, state law governs the witness’s competency regarding a claim or defense for which state law supplies the rule of decision.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed that Plata could testify that he had told Bittner that he intended to file a claim, but could not testify to Bittner’s response. The courts rejected the federal claims as time-barred and unsupported by evidence, noting that Plata was a difficult litigant, whose lawyer was allowed to withdraw after Plata refused to respond to discovery requests. View "Plata v. Eureka Locker, Inc." on Justia Law