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

Recent Employment Law Decisions

Court: Less Than 'Hellish' Workplace Still Hostile Environment

A man didn't have to show his work was "hellish" to sue for a hostile work environment, a federal appeals court said.

In Gates v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, a black building engineer said his workplace was hostile because a supervisor threatened him racially and called him the "N" word.

It's one thing when a co-worker says something like that, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals said, but it's a discrimination lawsuit when a supervisor says it.

7th Circuit Limits Age-Based Protections

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act applies to employees, not job applicants.

That's the ruling in Kleber v. CareFusion Corportion, a case from the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. A majority said the plain language of the law protects only current employees.

It was an 8-4 decision by a 12-member panel, setting the stage for a possible appeal. But for attorney Dale Kleber, it's been too long already.

Court: Village Can't Confer 'Right-To-Work' Law

A local municipality can't confer a right to work on employees who opt not to join unions, a federal appeals court said.

In International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399 v. Village of Lincolnshire, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals said a municipality's "right-to-work" agreement violated the National Labor Relations Act.

The only problem is that not everybody agrees -- including the Sixth Circuit. Sooner or later, the issue could go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A recently filed federal lawsuit by the EEOC against the University of Wisconsin has been making headlines due to the seemingly blatant age discrimination that is alleged.

The case involves a laid-off marketing and communications specialist, Bambi Butzlaff Voss, who was denied re-employment into other rather similar (and open) positions within the university. The EEOC took up her case, and it was discovered that one of the open positions went to someone thirty-years younger, and (naturally) with much less experience.

Terminated FBI Agent Loses Muslim Discrimination Claim

For Khalid Khowaja, it seemed like being a Muslim and an FBI agent wasn't a good fit.

In a discrimination lawsuit, he said other agents treated him differently because of his religion. One supervisor yelled Arabic holy phrases at the office, and another said he was "not our typical agent."

But in Khowaja v. Sessions, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of his lawsuit. In the end, Khowaja apparently didn't get along well with others.

What's Next in the #MeToo Michael Madigan Case?

Alaina Hampton, a political consultant who sued her own party for sexual harassment, is ready to settle.

She originally sued for $350,000 and attorney's fees, but her attorney says they are discussing settlement. That may include attorneys for Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, the Democratic party chief in the state.

It just so happens there's an opening in the organization, and Hampton wants it. Suddenly, #MeToo has a new meaning in the Land of Lincoln.

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.