Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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The Regional Director of the NLRB sought a temporary injunction under 29 U.S.C. 160(j), pending the Board’s resolution of unfair labor practices charges against Sunbelt. The ALJ in the Board proceeding subsequently issued its recommendation, concluding that Sunbelt had violated sections 8(a)(1), (3), and (5) of the Act. Before the district court, the Director submitted that Sunbelt had violated, and continued to violate those sections by interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees in the exercise of their rights under the Act; discriminatorily eliminating the bargaining unit and failing and refusing to bargain collectively and in good faith. The district court granted an injunction, ordering Sunbelt to cease certain unfair labor practices.While Sunbelt’s appeal was pending, the Board issued its decision and order. The Director then moved to dismiss this appeal of the injunction as moot. Sunbelt submitted that the appeal was not moot because the Board had severed and retained one issue for further consideration. The Seventh Circuit dismissed the appeal and directed the district court to vacate its judgment. The Board’s resolution of the unfair labor practices charges moots the appeal, regardless of the fact that the Board severed one issue and retained it for further consideration. The severed issue was not one presented to the district court in the Director’s petition for an injunction. The temporary relief authorized by the statute is no longer available. View "Hadsall v. Sunbelt Rentals, Inc." on Justia Law

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Gamble, an African-American, began working for FCA in 2015 and received a copy of FCA’s policy concerning sexual harassment, which could result in termination. Months later, two female employees complained that Gamble had sexually harassed them. After interviewing witnesses, Pollard, a human resources manager, concluded that Gamble had violated FCA’s policy and issued a warning. He acknowledged the warning and attended remedial training but disputed the harassing nature of his comments. In 2017, Gamble’s supervisor reported that he had witnessed Gamble acting inappropriately toward a female. Pollard initiated another investigation. Another woman complained that Gamble had also acted inappropriately toward her. Gamble was terminated.He filed suit, alleging discriminations based on his race, age (63), and disability (having battled cancer), and citing Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e; 42 U.S.C. 1981; the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C, 12112; and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C.A. 621–34.1 The district court granted FCO summary judgment. Gamble had abandoned his ADEA and ADA claims; his section 1981 claim for race discrimination was time-barred by a provision in his employment contract. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. No reasonable jury could infer that Gamble was treated less favorably than a similarly situated employee outside of his protected class. There was no evidence FCA gave a pretextual reason for firing him. View "Gamble v. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US LLC" on Justia Law

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The Hayward Walmart store is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is especially busy on Fridays and Saturdays during the summer. Walmart offered Hedican a job as one of eight full-time assistant managers. Hedican then revealed that, as a Seventh-day Adventist, he cannot work between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday. The store’s manager believes that each assistant manager should have experience with all available schedules and all of the store’s departments. The human resources department concluded that accommodating Hedican would leave the store short-handed at some times, or would require hiring a ninth assistant manager, or would compel the other seven assistant managers to cover extra weekend shifts despite their preference to have weekends off. Hedican was told he could apply for an hourly management position, which would not be subject to the rotation schedule. Hedican filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, under Title VII, which forbids employment discrimination on account of religion, 42 U.S.C. 2000e–2(a)(1).The district court granted Walmart summary judgment, finding that an hourly management job would have been a reasonable accommodation, even though the pay of that position is lower. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Title VII does not place the burden of accommodation on fellow workers, so accommodating Hedican’s religious practices would require Walmart to bear more than a slight burden if he became an assistant manager. View "Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Walmart Stores East, L.P." on Justia Law

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As a Chicago Midway International Airport ramp supervisor, Saxon supervises, trains, and assists a team of ramp agents—Southwest employees who physically load and unload planes. Ostensibly her job is purely supervisory but Saxon and other ramp supervisors frequently fill in as ramp agents. The ramp agents are covered by a collective bargaining agreement. Supervisors are excluded and agree annually as part of their contract of employment—not separately—to arbitrate wage disputes. Believing that Southwest failed to pay ramp supervisors for overtime work, Saxon filed a putative collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201–219. Southwest moved to dismiss or stay the suit pending arbitration (Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 3).The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit, citing the FAA exemption for “contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” The last category refers not to all contracts of employment, but only to those belonging to “transportation workers.” The act of loading cargo onto a vehicle to be transported interstate is commerce, as that term was understood at the time of the FAA’s 1925 enactment. Airplane cargo loaders, as a class, are engaged in that commerce, as seamen and railroad employees were; Saxon and the ramp supervisors are members of that class. View "Saxon v. Southwest Airlines Co." on Justia Law

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In 2015, Woodbridge Winery cellar employees held an election and certified Local 601 as their collective bargaining representative. Woodbridge challenged the certification before the National Labor Relations Board, then successfully challenged the Board’s order. The case remains pending before the Board. In 2016, Chavez wrote “Cellar Lives Matter” with a marker on his safety vest, which he wore for about two weeks. No employee complained to him about the slogan, Chavez claims that many of his co-workers responded positively. Woodbridge informed Chavez that “numerous people” found the slogan offensive and directed him to stop wearing the vest. Chavez stated that the slogan was not racially motivated but was only about supporting the union’s position. He stopped wearing the vest.Local 601 filed charges against Woodbridge; separately, the Board’s General Counsel issued a consolidated unfair labor practices complaint against the winery. The union alleged that Woodbridge violated section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act by directing Chavez to stop wearing clothing bearing any pro-union message and, unrelated to Chavez, that Woodbridge violated the Act by maintaining a policy in its employee handbook that limited eligibility for a bonus program to “non-union full time and regular part-time employees.” An ALJ found that Woodbridge had violated the Act on both fronts. The Board affirmed. The Seventh Circuit granted enforcement of the order, finding it supported by substantial evidence. View "National Labor Relations Board v. Constellation Brands U.S. Operations, Inc." on Justia Law

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Current and former members of the Chicago Police Department’s Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Unit brought a purported class action, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 216(b), the Illinois Minimum Wage Law, and the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act. They claim that when they take their SWAT equipment home to maintain a constant state of readiness, they must store some of that equipment inside their residences; it cannot be left in their vehicles. The department claimed that they have the option of leaving the equipment at headquarters, upon request. The operators sought compensation for the off-duty time required to transport, load, unload, and store their gear.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Chicago. The activity of transporting, loading, and unloading equipment to and from residences, and securing equipment inside residences is not integral and indispensable to the operators’ principal activity. A “principal activity” commences an employee’s workday; once started, that “workday” continues until the conclusion of the employee’s final principal activity of the day. The Portal-to-Portal Act does not apply to a worker’s “preliminary activity” or “post-liminary activity.” The requirement that certain equipment not be left in the vehicle but stored in the residence is only a reasonable directive that officers take precautions necessary to ensure safety and is far removed from the operators’ principal activity of handling critical incidents. View "Bartlett v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Chicago Officer Nelson responded to a report of an armed robbery in a high-crime area; she alleges that the radio dispatcher ignored her repeated emergency calls for information and assistance. Shift sergeant Bucki was responsible for listening to the radio transmissions and contacting the dispatcher if that person failed to respond. Nelson alleges that Bucki did not intervene when the dispatcher ignored her requests for help. Bucki later denied wrongdoing and refused to investigate why the dispatcher ignored Nelson. In her incident report, Nelson complained about the dispatcher’s failure to respond; months later, she discovered that Sergeant Boffo had edited the report to remove her complaints. Nelson developed PTSD, which she alleges was aggravated by the stress of learning that Boffo had edited her report. She has been unable to work, but remains employed by the police department and receives disability benefits. Nelson filed charges of race and sex discrimination with the EEOC and Illinois Department of Human Rights.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of her claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act and 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of her substantive due process rights by failing to protect her from danger and her procedural due process rights by causing her PTSD and depriving her of a property interest in her job. There was no conscience-shocking abuse of government power nor any affirmative action on by Bucki. View "Nelson v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a start‐up company and its founder (Marlowe), sued the company’s former chief legal officer, Fisher, to recover losses from an arbitration award that held them liable for years of unpaid wages owed to Fisher himself. The award comprised unpaid wages and statutory penalties totaling $864,976 and an additional $366,460 because Fisher did not receive written notice of his contract nonrenewal. Plaintiffs alleged that Fisher advised them to enter into what they now say was an illegal agreement to defer Fisher’s compensation until the company was able to secure more funding.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Even if Marlowe was Fisher’s client regarding her own compensation agreement and a decision not to purchase directors and officers insurance, the plaintiffs failed to plead any plausible malpractice claims arising from those matters. Plaintiffs did not allege that they would have opted against using the compensation agreements had Fisher fully advised them. The company violated the Illinois Wage Act by failing to pay Fisher as agreed. The agreement did not aggravate or add to those violations; it made sense as an interim measure to forestall litigation by acknowledging the obligation and committing the company to one way to satisfy it. View "UFT Commercial Finance, LLC v. Fisher" on Justia Law

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Xanthopoulos, a Mercer consultant, detected securities fraud; his internal complaints failed. He went to the SEC website, and, in March 2014, Xanthopoulos submitted his first TCR Form. Unlike the Sarbanes-Oxley OSHA Form, which may be used to notify OSHA of a Sarbanes-Oxley complaint, the SEC’s TCR Form does not affirmatively indicate that submission of the form will initiate a formal lawsuit under the federal securities law. Xanthopoulos allegedly submitted seven TCR Forms through June 2018; in his 2018 submissions, he mentioned Mercer’s mistreatment of him as an employee, not just the securities fraud. Every TCR Form Xanthopoulos submitted specifically referenced a whistleblowing award.As Xanthopoulos predicted in those filings, Mercer fired him in October 2017. Xanthopoulos filed an OSHA administrative complaint in September 2018, alleging violations of Sarbanes-Oxley’s anti-retaliation provision, 18 U.S.C. 1514A. OSHA dismissed the complaint as untimely because Xanthopoulos filed 350 days after Mercer discharged him. He responded that “there was no[] 180-day-period[] in which [he] could have decided in clear conscience, that [he] had every information needed, to contact OSHA.” Xanthopoulos, then represented by counsel, argued that he filed his claim in the wrong forum, which tolled the statute of limitations: the TCR Forms constituted Sarbanes-Oxley claims mistakenly filed with the SEC. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal. The reports to the SEC did not toll the 180-day period for his Sarbanes-Oxley complaint. Xanthopoulos has not articulated a sufficient ground to equitably toll his untimely complaint. View "Xanthopoulos v. United States Department of Labor Administrative Review Board" on Justia Law

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More than two years after being denied tenure at Columbia College of Chicago, Monroe sued the College, citing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000d, for being subject to race discrimination in a federally-funded program or activity. The statute does not specify a limitations period.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of the suit as untimely. Monroe argued that the correct period is the Illinois five-year catch-all limitations period for civil claims, while the College cited the two-year period for personal injuries. The court noted that other Circuits have emphasized that a Title VI claim, although aimed at the discriminatory use of federal funds, is one that ultimately seeks to vindicate personal rights, “closely analogous to [42 U.S.C.] sections 1983 and 1981.” Title VI specifically refers to discrimination against a “person” and should be governed by the limitations period that a state has specified for personal injury claims. View "Monroe v. Columbia College Chicago" on Justia Law