Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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DT&C, a Chicago ground transportation company, and its owners were sued by former employees and the Secretary of Labor for violating state wage‐payment laws and the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201. After the defendants ignored court orders, the district judges entered default judgments for the plaintiffs. Eleven months later, the defendants moved to vacate both judgments, FRCP 60(b), arguing that the company had closed in 2015 and no longer received mail at the office address and that one of the owners was in poor health so that he did not keep in contact with the lawyer. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of the motions. Because the defendants did not show good cause for the default, did not act quickly in filing motions to vacate, and failed to articulate any meritorious defenses, the district judges did not abuse their discretion. The default was the result of “inattention to the litigation” rather than illness, and the defendants had not shown that they had a legitimate defense. View "Krantz v. DT & C Global Management LLC" on Justia Law

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The Illinois Department of Human Services Home Services Program pays personal home health care assistants to care for elderly and disabled persons. The assistants are considered public employees under the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act, which authorizes collective bargaining. Since 2003, the Union has been the assistants' exclusive representative, required to represent all public employees, including non-members. Under the collective bargaining agreement, the Union collected limited "fair share" fees from workers who chose not to join, which were automatically deducted from the assistants' pay. Workers who objected to this fair-share arrangement sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of their claim; the Supreme Court reversed. On remand, the Objectors sought certification of a class of all non-union member assistants from whom the fees were collected until June 30, 2014, when the state stopped the fair-share deductions. They argued that their proposed class of around 80,000 members is entitled to a refund of approximately $32 million. The Seventh Circuit affirmed a holding that class certification was inappropriate, stating that: the class definition was overly broad in light of evidence that a substantial number of class members did not object to the fee and could not have suffered an injury; named plaintiffs were not adequate representatives; individual questions regarding damages predominated over common ones; the class faced manageability issues; and a class action was not a superior method of resolving the issue. View "Riffey v. Rauner" on Justia Law

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King worked for many years in Ford’s vehicle assembly plants. She claims that after transferring to Ford’s Chicago plant in 2010, she was sexually harassed by a supervisor, after which she was reassigned to less desirable tasks, missing out on overtime, and receiving unwarranted discipline. King was fired in 2013 after missing several weeks of work for medical reasons that Ford claims she did not properly document. King sued, asserting sexual harassment and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2615, interference, and that Ford retaliated against her for her complaints of sexual harassment and taking FMLA leave, 42 U.S.C. 2000e‐2. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of her claims on summary judgment. King argued that she never received the right‐to‐sue letter, so the 90‐day limitations period never began to run, but admitted that she failed to keep the EEOC apprised of her mailing address. With respect to her FMLA claim, the court noted that King did not establish she actually worked at least 1,250 hours in the preceding year. As to her Title VII claim, King’s protected activity consists of her March 2012 EEOC charge and her internal complaints of harassment, the last of which was a call to the anti‐harassment hotline in April 2012; the adverse action on which King focused was her April 2013 firing. View "King v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law

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Consolino is a Cook County Sheriff’s Office correctional officer and a Marine Reservist counterintelligence specialist. Beginning in 1999, Consolino was assigned to the Boot Camp, an alternative sentencing program for non-violent inmates. Consolino’s wife, Trzos, also worked at the Boot Camp, as an administrative assistant. Trzos filed a Shakman complaint that went to arbitration in 2012, asserting that she was transferred for political reasons. Shakman refers to consent decrees entered in an Illinois case challenging government "patronage" employment practices. Consolino testified on his wife's behalf. An arbitrator denied her claims. Around the same time, Consolino was seeking a two-year assignment to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. Based on a mistaken belief that Consolino had been approved for an open position, the FBI sent specifically requested Consolino for the task force. Consolino was subsequently told that the FBI rescinded its offer for failure to follow protocol. Consolino checked with the FBI and requested clarification from the Sheriff’s Office. Receiving no response, Consolino filed a complaint. An Assistant State’s Attorney ultimately concluded that Consolino’s complaint of retaliation was not well-founded. Seven months later, Consolino was reassigned to the jail. Consolino filed suit, alleging retaliation for engaging in protected speech because he testified in his wife’s hearing and later filed a grievance. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Consolino produced no evidence that the defendants were personally involved in his transfer or aware of his testimony. View "Consolino v. Towne" on Justia Law

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From 2002-2012, Frakes was a Peoria special education teacher. All of Frakes’s students were eligible for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1400. Nunn, like all of Frakes’s former supervisors, observed deficiencies in Frakes’s performance. In 2012, Nunn gave Frakes an overall performance rating of “unsatisfactory,” citing multiple specific examples Frakes was placed on a remediation plan. Before her remediation period began, Frakes was placed on medical leave status. In April 2012, Frakes was honorably dismissed as part of a reduction in teaching force. Because of her “unsatisfactory” rating, Frakes, and nine other full‐time tenured teachers, was placed in “Group 2” on the “sequence of honorable dismissal list” in accordance with Illinois law. Frakes filed an unsuccessful state court suit, asserting wrongful termination under the Illinois School Code. Frakes filed a federal suit, claimed that her “unsatisfactory” evaluation and dismissal interfered with her ability to aid students in exercising their rights under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Peoria. Frakes failed to show that she engaged in any protected activity under the Act. While Frakes provided some evidence that her “unsatisfactory” rating may have been unfair and her preferred teaching method may be better suited for disabled students, this does not render Frakes’s teaching style a protected activity. Frakes never complained about or discouraged discrimination based on disability or engaged in any other protected activity. View "Frakes v. Peoria School District No. 150" on Justia Law

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From 2006-2013, Severson worked for Heartland, a fabricator of retail display fixtures. The work was physically demanding. In 2013, Severson took a 12-week medical leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2601, to deal with serious back pain. On the last day of his leave, he underwent back surgery, which required that he remain off of work for another two or three months. Severson asked Heartland to continue his medical leave, but he had exhausted his FMLA entitlement. The company terminated his employment but invited him to reapply when he was medically cleared to work. When Severson’s doctor cleared him to resume work, Severson did not reapply but sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101. The district court awarded Heartland summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The ADA is an antidiscrimination statute, not a medical-leave entitlement. The Act forbids discrimination against a “qualified individual on the basis of disability.” A “qualified individual” with a disability is a person who, “with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position.” The term is limited to measures that will enable the employee to work. An employee who needs long-term medical leave cannot work and is not a “qualified individual.” View "Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, Inc." on Justia Law

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Monroe worked for the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) for more than 21 years. His job involved cleaning up human remains after traffic accidents; he witnessed a co‐worker die after a work‐related accident. He had served in combat in the Gulf War, and, in 2012 Monroe’s sister, who lived with him, died of cancer. Monroe also worked a second job In December 2012, Monroe told his supervisor, George, that he was stressed, burned out, could not sleep, and wanted to be transferred to the day shift. After two requests, he was told that no position was available. In 2013, after Monroe’s subordinates complained to George about Monroe, Monroe disclosed that recently he had been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Although Monroe had received performance reviews indicating that he “exceeded expectations” as late as January 2013, INDOT discharged Monroe for creating a hostile and intimidating work environment. Monroe alleged that he was terminated “on the basis of” his mental disability in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants, finding no genuine issue of material fact that INDOT’s proffered reason for discharging him was pretextual or that INDOT treated similarly situated non‐disabled employees more favorably. View "Monroe v. Indiana Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were white and Hispanic members of Chicago Mayor Daley’s protective services detail, Unit 542. Each held the rank of patrol officer but was assigned to the security-specialist position, and received a sergeant’s pay. Daley announced that he would not seek reelection. Rahm Emanuel began his mayoral campaign. Several police officers volunteered to provide campaign security. Emanuel was elected Mayor. Six of the volunteers were appointed to Emanuel’s transition detail. Emanuel told Interim Police Superintendent Hillard that his permanent detail should reflect the city's diversity and be “bare bones.” Hillard reduced the detail from 21 officers and two commanders to 16 officers and one commander and began his search with officers serving Daley. Hillard claimed that he relied on his command team’s recommendations. He selected five officers working on Emanuel’s transition detail. The final detail contained seven white, five Hispanic, and five black officers. The department reassigned Plaintiffs as patrol officers. Plaintiffs alleged patronage hiring in violation of the First Amendment, 42 U.S.C. 1983; violation of the “Shakman” consent decrees; race discrimination, 42 U.S.C. 1981, the Equal Protection Clause (42 U.S.C. 1983) and Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e. All of the claims were either dismissed or rejected at trial. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Sufficient evidence supported a finding that city officials did not consider political factors when appointing Emanuel’s detail and the court did not err in excluding evidence of historic discrimination. View "Houlihan v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Owens worked as Old Wisconsin's manager of Human Resources and the company’s only female manager, from June 2011 until her termination in April 2012. Kobussen applied for a position at Old Wisconsin. Owens was involved in the interview process but did not disclose that she and Kobussen were involved in a six-year relationship. Owens was also involved in the hiring of a long-time friend, which resulted in allegations, by other employees, of preferential treatment. The company indicated that the reason for termination was lack of professionalism and lack of knowledge concerning HR and safety policies. Owens was replaced by a woman. She filed suit, alleging discrimination and retaliation claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 215(a)(3). Owens had complained of FLSA violations at the company. The district court granted summary judgment, rejecting all claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that while “Owens sets forth a plethora of other actions which she claims constitute discriminatory treatment,” there is nothing inherent in them that would allow an inference that they were related to her sex, and no evidence that other similarly-situated employees were treated differently or other reason to indicate they indicate sex discrimination. View "Owens v. Old Wisconsin Sausage Co." on Justia Law

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The University of Indiana South Bend employed Professor Grant, an African-American, in 1999. In 2008, several students complained to University administration that Grant inappropriately canceled classes, used obscene language in class, dismissed two students from his course without following proper procedure, and had permitted a nonemployee to grade student work and access academic records. During an investigation, Grant filed affirmative action complaints against the investigators. Students went to the South Bend Tribune with their concerns. The investigation uncovered discrepancies in Grant’s work history. The University dismissed then-tenured Professor Grant in 2011 for “serious misconduct” based on misrepresentations in his curriculum vitae. The district court rejected all of Grant’s 26 claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Grant’s claims that the University: discriminated against him on the basis of race; retaliated against him for his complaints against two University officials; denied him due process of law; defamed him in the South Bend Tribune; and breached a contract created by the University’s handbook. View "Grant v. Trustees of Indiana University" on Justia Law