7th Circuit Employment Law News - U.S. Seventh Circuit
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Recent Employment Law Decisions

Margarita Zayas was an ultrasound technician employed at Rockford Memorial Hospital from November 1999 to April 2011. Though she received positive work evaluations as recently as 2008 and 2009, she was terminated because of repeatedly sending disrespectful emails to her direct supervisor Larry Griesman.

Over the course of one year, Zayas sent a series of insubordinate emails to Griesman, despite several meetings and warnings. Even after Zayas received a formal written warning, she persisted in sending emails that "were perceived as negative, unprofessional and disrespectful towards her managers and peers." Because she did not heed her employer's warnings, she was terminated in April 2011, at the age of fifty-five, the oldest ultrasound tech at Rockford Memorial Hospital.

On Monday, the Supreme Court handed down its opinion in Sandifer, et al. v. United States Steel Corp., a case originating in the Seventh Circuit. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the Seventh Circuit's decision.

As the Court's most outspoken Originalist, it comes as no surprise that Justice Scalia authored the opinion of the Court which turned on statutory construction, which all Justices joined, with Justice Sotomayor's exception to one footnote.

The Seventh Circuit is a delight to cover -- how could it not be when you have the likes of Posner and Easterbrook writing opinions? And with such high-profile judges on the bench, the Seventh Circuit is in the news sometimes as much for its personalities as it is for the law coming out of the jurisdiction.

As we take this time to get prepped for what 2014 has to offer, here's a look back at 2013 to see the legal highlights from the Seventh Circuit:

The Seventh Circuit seems to be a breeding ground for ADEA jurisprudence -- that doesn't get decided. Just this term, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Madigan v. Levin, and soon after oral arguments, dismissed the case as improvidently granted.

Last week, the Seventh Circuit had the opportunity to decide an issue of first impression for the circuit. Pump your brakes; don't get too excited because no sooner than the court said "issue of first impression," it also declined to decide the issue.

Here we go again...

It's not often that a circuit court addresses a question of first impression in its circuit, getting the opportunity to weigh in on a circuit split, but last week, that is what happened in the Seventh Circuit.

Further deepening the divide among the circuits, the Seventh held that Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act does not apply to public employment discrimination-based claims.

Wouldn't it be great if you could get paid to get ready for work? Imagine if the time you spent showering and getting changed (or as the courts like to say "donning and doffing") would be considered "work." Sounds crazy at first -- until you realize the types of chemicals and compounds that some workers are exposed to, and the necessity of showering and changing.

In that instance, it seems perfectly logical.

Sergeant Kyll Lavalais worked for the Village of Melrose Park Police Department for over twenty years. Of about 75 officers, he was the only African-American officer in the department. In 2010, feeling he was being discriminated against, he filed a complaint with the EEOC. In January 2011, he filed another claim with the EEOC claiming he was retaliated against for making the initial claim the year before.

One month later, Lavalais was made a sergeant and assigned to the midnight shift. He served in this position for one year and two months, and then requested a different shift, which the police chief denied. The third time was the charm, and in July 2012, after filing a third claim with the EEOC, he was given a right-to-sue letter.

The Seventh Circuit has been in the news a lot lately with the recent Supreme Court's dismissal of Madigan v. Levin, where it had a chance to determine whether the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") preempted an equal protection claim.

Recently, the Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded a straight forward ADEA claim, finding that the district court erred by granting the defendant's motion for summary judgment.

Today was opening day at SCOTUS and the first case the Court heard oral arguments on was Madigan v. Levin. And in what might be the first upset of the season, this case may not even be decided at all.

A Chicago Cadillac dealer is being sued in federal court by the EEOC on allegations that the employer created a hostile work environment for its Muslim and Arab staff.

According to the Chicago Tribune, a suit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Wednesday on behalf of Rizza Cadillac employees, seeking damages and injunctive relief for the discriminatory work environment created by the dealership's managers.

Suits like this one are typically losing battles when the allegations of racism are this severe.