U.S. Seventh Circuit - The FindLaw 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Recent Employment Law Decisions

Blogging Professors Can Bring Free Speech Claims Against University

If caustic blogs were a knife in the back, a battle between faculty and administration may have stabbed the deepest at Chicago State Univeristy.

The struggling university, which laid off 300 employees last year due to budget cuts, is facing a lawsuit that could be the final blow. Professors Phillip Beverly and Robert Bionaz sued school officials for violating their free speech rights and for retaliation.

In Beverly v. Watson, a federal judge says the professors may continue their case. While it champions freedom of speech, however, it's also a tawdry tale.

Police officers in the Chicago PD's Bureau of Organized Crime filed a class action case against the department alleging unpaid overtime for checking emails, sending and receiving text messages and calls during off-duty time. The case, Allen v. City of Chicago, involves a class of 52 officers that were seeking unpaid overtime. Unfortunately for the officers, the district court ruled in favor of the department after a bench trial to a magistrate judge.

Making matters worse for the officers, on appeal to the Seventh Circuit, a three judge panel affirmed the lower courts findings, and refused to disturb the judgment. The appellate court found that the officers failed to establish their case, and that the lower court did not err in reaching their decision that department did not prevent the officers from claiming the unpaid overtime.

ADA Judgment Affirmed Against City

Biagio Stragapede was a city water-worker in Evanston, IL until one day when he tripped on some steps.

It was not serious, but the city placed him on leave and later terminated him because it said he was a safety threat. He had other problems, too, like driving through an intersection without looking and reporting to the wrong job sites.

But the real problem was that Stragapede had recently returned to work from a serious brain injury, and the city didn't think he could do his job. A jury rejected the city's rationale, and so did the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Stragapede v. City of Evanston.

No Minimum Wage for NCAA Athletes, 7th Circuit Rules

Two track-and-field students sued for the love of the game and minimum wage, but came up short at the finish line.

The Seventh Circuit ruled that the plaintiffs could not make a case for minimum wage claims because of the "long tradition of amateur sports" that students play for reasons "wholly unrelated to immediate compensation."

"Simply put, student-athletic 'play' is not 'work,'" Judge Michael S. Kanne wrote for the unanimous court in Berger v. National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The Supreme Court ruled last year that gays and lesbians were entitled to equal marriage rights. But when it comes to the right to work free from discrimination, federal protections currently don't cover LGBTQ employees.

That could soon change in the Seventh Circuit, however, as the en banc court hears a case today that could result in employment discrimination protections being extended to gay and lesbian workers.

7th Circuit: Sexual Orientation Not Covered by Title VII

Lesbians and gays (and presumably bisexual, transgender, and queer persons) do not enjoy Title VII anti-discrimination under that federal statute, the Seventh Circuit has ruled. However, cultural realities demand that employers cannot simply dodge legal punishment scot free.

ADA Suit Affirmed by 7th Circuit in Favor of City Driver

A man who had worked for the city for the greater part of three decades was vindicated by the Seventh Circuit in a non-accommodation claim. The man had claimed that the city fired him for not having a commercial license -- an item that was impossible for him to acquire because of diabetes he'd developed over the years.

This very interesting ADA-retaliation case mixes employment law and politics. Employers should pay attention to the tone of this court carefully.

ACH's Retirement Plan Is Not Exempt From ERISA, 7th Cir. Rules

The case of Stapleton et al. v. Health Care Network was reviewed and its decision affirmed at the Seventh Circuit recently, further solidifying the opinions of appellate courts that Advocate Health Care's retirement plan is not church-exempt from ERISA.

Stapleton is the current and latest in a series of appellate cases across the nation that have increasingly become critical of church-exempted claims from federal law and ERISA.

What happens when a seniority-based job assignment system comes into conflict with the needs of disabled workers? Seniority wins, at least in a recent ADA lawsuit against United Airlines.

In that suit, a disabled United ramp serviceman failed to show "special circumstances" that would require United to make an exception to its seniority system, the Seventh Circuit ruled.

'Physician, heal thyself,' the proverb goes. A recent opinion from the Seventh Circuit provides an important addendum: once you're done, get back to work quickly.

The court recently dismissed an ADA suit by a doctor who failed to get back to work tout suite after taking medical leave to deal with his bipolar disorder. Larry Hooper, M.D., was fired for not returning to work after he had been cleared by a psychiatrist and warned by his employer, Proctor Health Care in Peoria, Illinois.