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

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.

7th Circuit Interprets Proximate Cause in Cat's Paw Case

If you don't know what the Cat's Paw theory of liability is, don't feel bad. It's a reference to an ancient Aesop story where a scheming monkey dupes a cat into harming his paw so that the monkey could reap the benefits of someone's labor and pain.

The 7th Circuit has offered its own interpretation on which defendants can rely without fear of being duped into a costly and headache inducing discrimination lawsuit.

Just in time for Labor Day comes a (relative) success for union organizers. The Seventh Circuit slapped down an auto dealership which threatened its employees against unionizing last Friday. When workers at Libertyville Toyota in Illinois began organizing, the dealership's owner, AutoNation, called them together to warn them against unionizing, saying that they would face wage cuts and blacklisting if they did. AutoNation is the largest auto chain in the country.

One sly employee surreptitiously recorded one of the meetings, conducted by two AutoNation executives. Those recordings lead to the Seventh Circuit's recent ruling against the company.

Got bad precedent? Differentiate it. Did a question certified to a state court come out not in your favor? Try to spin it. But remember, there are limits to legal interpretation. If you're not careful, you might soon find yourself simply denying reality.

This is exactly what happened to FedEx, according to the Seventh Circuit. For nine years, FedEx had classified its drivers as independent contractors, not employees, leading to litigation throughout the country. When the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the drivers were employees under state law, FedEx simply attempted to ignore that reality, much to the Seventh Circuit's chagrin.

Racial discrimination in the workplace often results in grievances that are sad or even painful to hear about. That wasn't the case with the discrimination case brought by police sergeant Michael Miller. In writing his decision, Judge Posner didn't seem too impressed with Miller's list of grievances.

Miller held a stable position in a detective bureau in Indiana. In 2010, he ran unsuccessfully for Sheriff. He subsequently asked the new sheriff if he could be appointed as warden of the county jail or assistant chief of the police department. When he was passed over for these positions, his situations went from bad to worse.

Unconstitutional to Reduce Pension Benefits: Ill. Supreme Court

Illinois, like many states, was facing a funding crisis: State liabilities to public employees on pensions have been on the rise as more and more employees retire, with no proportional increase in funding for those pensions. The state could either raise more money or cut benefits.

Which one did legislators pick?

Chicago Window Washers Exempt from Overtime, Says 7th Cir.

Are window washers exempt from overtime? They very well could be, the Seventh Circuit said in an opinion issued on April 1 (which is no joke, by the way).

Judge Richard Posner wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel in affirming a grant of summary judgment to window-cleaning company CCS against several current and former employees who claimed window washers didn't fall outside one of the exceptions to overtime in the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Grumpy Posner Removes Judge From Case for Grumpiness, Errors

Judge Richard Posner is known for his way with words, especially his ability to criticize deserving parties in a caustic, humorous, and legally sound manner. So on first glance, it may seem strange that he'd criticize a district court judge for his "tone of derision that pervades his opinion" before reassigning the case on remand.

Except there is one big difference: Posner's opinions stand on solid ground. U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur's opinion, and his handling of an employment discrimination case, seem to have been far less stable, reports the ABA Journal. While Posner hesitated to call out Shadur by name in his opinion (hat tip to the ABA for digging up the district court opinion), his treatment of Shadur's work was otherwise classic, unrestrained Posner.