An EEOC charge, the essential first step to filing a Title VII (or ADEA or ADA) case, must characteristically include the basic information that makes up the employee's allegations against the employer. Regrettably, many employees stumble at this stage because they do not have an attorney. But a panel of the Sixth Circuit, dividing 2-1, holds that a bare-bones charge and accompanying "charge information form" was sufficient.
Two decisions issued today demonstrate the challenge employers face in managing claims of retaliation. If the summary judgment records in these cases are to be believed, the decision-makers were all-too-eager to announce their intention to get even with employees who made complaints of discrimination.
A 6-5 en banc decision from the Eighth Circuit affirms summary judgment in a sex and national-origin discrimination case involving the hiring of firefighters, vacating a prior decision that reversed summary judgment. The court disaffirms language located in 62 published, panel decisions since 1987 (collected in an appendix to the opinion) stating that summary judgment ought to be applied sparingly in employment discrimination cases.
The Second Circuit, in an non-precedential opinion, reverses summary judgment and remands an ADEA and New York State Human Rights Act claim back to the district court for trial. The panel concludes that something seemed to smell when a 59-year-old auto service department employee was dropped in favor of 36-year-old, . . . .and the best that the employer could produce was affidavits of witnesses - years after the fact - disparaging the employee's organizational skills, flexibility and attitude.
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.
Though you won't find this in the official advance sheets (it is officially non-precedential), it is nice to see yet another case holding that a sexually-hostile work environment may violate Title VII, even if it is not targeted at a particular female employee.
It is uncommon for a losing party to persuade a U.S. Court of Appeals panel to reverse its outcome on a motion for rehearing, but the age discrimination plaintiff in this case pulled it off, winning a remand (in a 2-to-1 decision) of his claim for a trial under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA).
Hats off to the EEOC for persuading the Fourth Circuit to remand, for a trial, a claim that a manufacturer did not act quickly enough in 2005-06 to protect African-American assembly plant employees from a racially hostile environment. The court affirms judgment for the employer, on the other hand, on claims after that period when the employer picked up the pace and started disciplining and (in one case) firing the offenders.
In an unpublished decision issued today, the Tenth Circuit remands for trial the Title VII claim of a fired certified medication aide (CMA), who alleged that she was sexually harassed by a resident. The panel holds that there were genuine issues of material fact about whether the behavior was "severe or pervasive," and whether the employer did all it reasonably could to prevent the harassing behavior.
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.