Two circuits, the Sixth and Seventh, issue back-to-back decisions criticizing district courts for applying an excessively-stringent standard for proving comparable employees under the McDonnell Douglas test. The Seventh Circuit - in a special concurring opinion by Judge Diane Wood, co-signed by her two co-panelists - goes a step further, and urges the end of this entire line of cases: "Perhaps McDonnell Douglas was necessary nearly 40 years ago, when Title VII litigation was still relatively new in the federal courts. By now, however, as this case well illustrates, the various tests that we insist lawyers use have lost their utility."
As we approach the final stretch of 2011, I can report two more appeals of race discrimination cases where the plaintiffs (more or less) came out on top. In the Fifth Circuit, the panel reverses summary judgment in a Title VII reverse-race termination case, finding that the plaintiff succeeded in building a plausible claim that her employer lied about the reasons for her termination. And in the Eleventh Circuit, a now-15 year-old, § 1981 case - which took an intervening trip to the U.S. Supreme Court - comes to what may be its final resting place, with the plaintiff keeping a winning verdict and judgment, while losing $1 million in punitive damages.
Apparently, in Cleveland, Ohio public schools, the ability to yell at the class - here, politely termed "verbally control[ling] resistive students" - is deemed an "essential function" of teaching. A teacher's medical restriction not to raise her voice, holds an unreported Sixth Circuit decision today, means that she is not a "qualified individual" under the ADA.
Memo to Directors of Human Resources: what you tell an employee about an adverse employment decision is admissible as evidence in a Title VII case, even if you were not personally involved in the final decision. The Seventh Circuit so holds in a case reversing summary judgment in a pregnancy-discrimination and FMLA case.
The Seventh Circuit reverses summary judgment on a Title VII retaliation claim, where an employee with "no performance issues, no attendance problems, and no complaints against her" loses her job as bank vice president, after the incoming president is (allegedly) tipped-off that the employee complained abut harassment.
A pro se plaintiff wins a victory in the Third Circuit, reversing summary judgment on his Title VII claim that Newark, New Jersey's residency requirement for city employment has a disparate impact on non-Latino white job applicants.
The Ninth Circuit contributes to the latest in a roster of recent U.S. Courts of Appeals' decisions reversing summary judgment in cases where the district court applied a too-strict standard of "similarly situated" to evaluate an employee's claim of discriminatory discipline under the McDonnell Douglas test.
One of the most memorable hostile-work-environment facts encountered in a recent published federal opinion: The manager - who has a history of physically threatening the plaintiff - rips off his shirt at work and tells the employee, "You don't know who you are talking to. See these scars. I was shot and was in jail." The Fifth Circuit reverses summary judgment in an ADEA and Title VII harassment case.
For the second time in two weeks, the Seventh Circuit reverses summary judgment in a Title VII case where the employee alleged discriminatory discipline. The court finds that similar, if not identical, disciplinary violations were comparable enough to make out a prima facie case of discrimination. The court also reminds us of a simple, though easily-overlooked, principle: that a factual distinction proffered to defeat a "similarly situated" holding at the prima facie stage is immaterial if there is no evidence that the employer actually relied on that reason at the time decisions were made.
The management decision in this case not to separate an employee with a sex-harassment complaint from the alleged harasser (who was also the employee's supervisor) puts the employer in a vice - it now faces a trial for both sex harassment and retaliatory harassment under Title VII and Puerto Rican law. The First Circuit specifically recognizes that a supervisor who ratchets up work and otherwise intensifies harassment against an employee for refusing to yield to sexual demands may create a new claim for retaliation.