In Title VII retaliation actions, courts often focus on "temporal proximity" - the closeness in time between the protected activity and the employer retaliation - as circumstantial evidence of causation. But this shorthand can be misleading. In this case, the Seventh Circuit reminds us that an employer may be held liable under this provision even where there has been a substantial gap between a complaint of race discrimination and the employee's termination. Here, the manager who brought down the axe down on the employee believed that the employee had raised a fresh complaint, even though the record was otherwise.
Why on earth would an employer defending a federal Title VII sex discrimination lawsuit wait until the day after the plaintiff sits for her deposition to serve her with a Notice of Disciplinary Action, referring to events going back four months? The Seventh Circuit finds direct evidence that this adverse action was motivated by retaliation, reverses summary judgment and sends the plaintiff's retaliation claim back for a trial.
In a race harassment case, the Seventh Circuit recognizes that innocent-appearing media can be used in a hostile context to perpetuate abuse of racial minorities by insinuation. It finds in this case, though, that the publication - a book titled THE ONE MINUTE MANAGER MEETS THE MONKEY - was not being used for a racially-hostile purpose.
On March 1, 2011, the Supreme Court reversed the Seventh Circuit's grant of judgment as a matter of law for the employer in a Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) case (131 S. Ct. 1186 (2011)), where a jury found the company liable for discrimination under that act. In an unpublished coda, the Seventh Circuit remands the case for a new trial, and along the way tweaks the high court's opinion a bit.
Plaintiff, a fired bridge crew member in Southern Illinois, wins the opportunity to try his claims of ADA regarded-as disability discrimination and retaliation against IDOT. Plaintiff claims that the agency believed him to be substantially limited in the major life activity of work, owing to his acrophobia, and that he was fired after complaining about being given dangerous duty beyond his limitations.
A decision affirming the validity of an EEOC subpoena sheds a light on the continuing presence of racial segregation in the workplace. Whether benign or not, steering African-Americans or other ethnic minorities to particular offices or stores based on race is specifically unlawful under Title VII.
Feel that your retirement plan is ripping you off, either wholesale or nickels at a time? Two back-to-back decisions from the Seventh Circuit involving breach of fiduciary duty claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) hold that there might be a remedy under Section 502(a)(2) of that statute.
Courts have applied the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting method of proof to Title VII, § 1983 and other discrimination cases countless times since its inception in the 1970s. The test classically allows employees who lack direct proof that their employers discriminated against them to raise an inference of discrimination, indirectly, by disproving the other lawful reasons that the employer might have had for its decision. Many courts get this test wrong, but here the Seventh Circuit gets it on the nose and - as a bonus - corrects the district court's application of the "stray remarks" rule and the "same actor" inference.
This author is pleased to announce the return of Daily Developments in EEO Law to its new platform. I will continue to report on the comings-and-goings of federal equal employment opportunity law in this space - concentrating, as before, on developments in the U.S. Courts of Appeals - and will be joined before very long by other, extraordinary attorneys from Outten & Golden LLP, contributing in their areas of expertise.
Updated to April 16, 2020