Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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Ashton, a transgender high school senior, requested to use the boys’ restroom while at school. The Kenosha School District denied the request, indicating that Ashton’s mere presence would invade the privacy rights of his male classmates. In his suit under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act and the Equal Protection Clause, Ashton sought preliminary injunctive relief, asserting that his attempts to avoid using the bathroom exacerbated his vasovagal syncope, which renders Ashton susceptible to fainting or seizures if dehydrated, and that the situation caused him educational and emotional harm, including suicidal ideations. The district court denied a motion to dismiss and granted a preliminary injunction. The Seventh Circuit upheld the injunction. Ashton sufficiently demonstrated a likelihood of success on his Title IX claim under a sex‐stereotyping theory. Because the policy’s classification is based upon sex, he also demonstrated that heightened scrutiny, and not rational basis, should apply to his Equal Protection Claim. The District has not provided a genuine and exceedingly persuasive justification for the classification nor any evidence of how the preliminary injunction will harm it, or any students or parents. Harms identified by the District are all speculative, whereas the harms to Ashton are well‐documented. View "Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District" on Justia Law

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School district was not required to accommodate an administrator, whose disability precluded being “in the vicinity of potentially unruly students.” Brown was an assistant principal for Milwaukee Public Schools until she badly injured her knee while restraining a student. When she returned to work following surgery, she and her doctor stated that she could not be “in the vicinity of potentially unruly students.” Since virtually all students are “potentially” unruly, Milwaukee Schools understood that limit to bar virtually all student contact. It repeatedly communicated that understanding to Brown as it tried to find her a new position. When Brown’s three-year leave of absence expired before a suitable position was found, she was fired. Brown sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101, claiming that her disability had never prevented interaction with students and that Milwaukee Schools failed to accommodate her disability. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Milwaukee Schools. All but one of the other jobs Brown identified as reasonable accommodations would have required proximity to students. The lone exception would have been a promotion for which Brown was not the most qualified candidate. The Act did not require Milwaukee Schools to promote her as an accommodation. View "Brown v. Milwaukee Board of School Directors" on Justia Law

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Marian Catholic High School subjects its students to random drug tests. Although it is run by the Archdiocese of Chicago, it receives federal funds for this program. Students who test positive for illegal drugs are subject to sanctions, ranging from counseling to expulsion. Plaintiffs are Marian students who received false positive results in the tests. Six are African-American; one is white. Their suit, alleging that the drug-testing program is run in a way that discriminates on the basis of race in violation of the Constitution and federal statutes, was dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The complaint did not allege that hair testing had a racially disproportionate impact, either because of anything identifiable about different hair types, or because of differences in technology used or sample processing. It did not allege that the laboratory knew the race of the person whose hair it was testing. With respect to the 42 U.S.C. 1983 count against the guidance counselor who ran the program, the court found nothing indicating that she was a state actor. The fact that the school receives federal funds did not transform the school or its employees into state actors. The claims under 42 U.S.C. 1981 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 failed for lack of allegations of intentional discrimination by the guidance counselor. View "L.P. v. Marian Catholic High School" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Dr. Burton was hired as a professor at the University of Wisconsin‐Platteville. She was promoted to associate professor. Burton subsequently received a complaint from a student who claimed that another professor had sexually harassed her. Burton contacted Dean Throop, and her department chair, Caywood. The offending professor claimed the incident was designed to display to the class social norms by violating them. Days later, Caywood circulated a memo, stating professors were to bring students’ complaints directly to Caywood, rather than going outside of the department. Caywood believed Burton had overreacted. Throop and Caywood then began to withdraw support for a curriculum that Burton was developing. Burton was unanimously granted tenure. Caywood stepped down as department chair. Burton filed a charge of discrimination with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, alleging discrimination based on her sex and retaliation for reporting the student incident and deliberate indifference to her grievances. Administrators pressured her to drop her case. Burton filed suit and contacted the EEOC. Days later, Throop sent Burton a letter identifying seven examples of inappropriate behavior by Burton. After Throop accused Burton of canceling class without permission, Burton sent an email asking all of her students for their help in proving that she had held class that day. The Seventh Circuit affirmed rejection of Burton's claims on summary judgment. "Burton’s frustrations may be significant," but do not amount to actionable retaliation under Title VII or Title IX. View "Burton v. Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin" on Justia Law

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Jacob has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder and requires an Individualized Education Plan. He repeated kindergarten in a general education classroom with additional support. Jacob’s second year of kindergarten included several behavioral disturbances. His parents disagreed with recommendations to change his placement and services and filed a due process complaint, 20 U.S.C. 1415(b). After additional testing, the parents and their psychologist with the District. Some of Jacob’s services were discontinued and a Behavioral Intervention Plan was adopted. The District recommended that Jacob be placed in the Social Emotional Learning Foundations program (SELF). Jacob’s parents objected and SELF-placement was not adopted. Jacob struggled with the new Plan, The District sought to place Jacob in SELF, in a different district, over his parents’ objections. Jacob’s parents believed that SELF was more restrictive than necessary and that he should remain in general education in his home district. The Act maintains the placement status quo until the complaint is resolved, so Jacob was never moved to SELF. The district court affirmed an administrative decision, concluding that the District met the Act’s substantive requirement of providing Jacob with a free appropriate public education. The Seventh Circuit vacated, reasoning that the matter is moot because Jacob is in third grade and the parties have reached agreement regarding his third-grade placement. View "Ostby v. Manhattan School District Number 114" on Justia Law

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PFAC is the collective‐bargaining representative for more than 1,200 part‐time faculty members at Columbia College Chicago. The parties agreed to continue under a 2006-2010 collective bargaining agreement while they bargained for a successor agreement. During negotiations, Columbia unilaterally decided to reduce the credit hours for 10 courses in its School of Fine and Performing Arts (SFPA). Consistent with the CBA, Columbia notified part‐time faculty members affected by these changes, but not PFAC. PFAC filed an unfair‐labor‐practice charge regarding Columbia’s refusal to bargain over the effects reduction of course credit hours in a different department. The parties settled that charge. Negotiations broke down. PFAC learned of the SFPA credit‐hour reductions and demanded to bargain. In February 2012, PFAC called for Columbia to resume negotiations. Columbia responded that it had no obligation to bargain about the course‐credit‐hour reductions. The parties resumed negotiations in June. In August, the NLRB lodged a complaint against Columbia, alleging violations of 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1),(5), by failing to bargain: over the effects of the credit‐hour reductions before May 2012; for a successor CBA from February to June 2012; and in good faith. The Board upheld the charges and awarded bargaining expenses. The Seventh Circuit vacated in part. Columbia was not required to bargain over the effects of the credit‐hour reductions. The college had already satisfied its statutory bargaining duty on this issue when it negotiated and entered into the 2006 CBA. View "National Labor Relations Board v. Columbia College Chicago" on Justia Law

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Wilson was an admissions representative, recruiting students to CEC’s culinary arts college. Wilson earned a bonus for each student that he recruited above a threshold who either completed a full course or a year of study. If a representative was terminated, he was entitled only to bonuses already earned, not including students “in the pipeline.” CEC reserved the right to “terminate or amend” the contract at any time, for any reason, in its sole discretion. The Education Department released regulations, to become effective in July 2011, prohibiting institutions participating in Title IV student financial aid programs from providing bonuses based on securing enrollment. CEC decided to pay bonuses that were earned as of February 28, 2011, depriving Wilson of bonuses that were in the pipeline. CEC raised the base salary by at least the total of 3% plus 75% of each representative’s previous two years’ bonuses. Wilson sued. The Seventh Circuit remanded, holding that Wilson must prove that CEC exercised its discretion in a manner contrary to the parties' reasonable expectations. On remand, the district court rejected an argument that cost savings, not compliance with the regulations, drove CEC’s decision. There were no cost savings to CEC. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Even accepting Wilson’s characterization, the evidence is insufficient to allow a jury to reasonably conclude that CEC breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. View "Wilson v. Career Education Corp." on Justia Law

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Former students who participated on Penn’s women’s track and field team, regulated by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sued Penn, the NCAA, and more than 120 other NCAA Division I member schools, alleging that student athletes are “employees” within the meaning of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 and violated the FLSA by not paying their athletes a minimum wage. The district court dismissed, holding that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue any of the defendants other than Penn, and failed to state a claim against Penn because student athletes are not employees under the FLSA. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The plaintiffs did not plausibly allege any injury traceable to, or redressable by, any defendant other than Penn. Citing the Department of Labor Field Operations Handbook, the court reasoned that NCAA-regulated sports are “extracurricular,” “interscholastic athletic” activities and that the Department did not intend the FLSA to apply to student athletes. View "Berger v. National Collegiate Athletic Association" on Justia Law

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Whitaker is a transgender boy whose high school will not permit him to use the boys’ bathroom. He sued, alleging violation of Title IX, 20 U.S.C. 1681, and the Equal Protection Clause. The defendants appealed denial of a motion to dismiss, arguing that appellate jurisdiction was proper under 28 U.S.C. 1292(b). The district court subsequently vacated its certification and the Seventh Circuit denied permission to appeal. The district court’s decision to withdraw certification destroyed jurisdiction to consider the petition under section 1292(b). View "Kenosha Unified School District v. Whitaker" on Justia Law

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Officer Byrne, responding to a bar fight, spotted one man chasing another. One man reached and entered a parked car; the other began punching at the driver’s window. Byrne restrained the pursuer, Hess, a student at Southern Illinois University. The car drove away. Hess stated that Franks had hit Hess’s sister in the face. Hess gave chase but claimed to have never made contact with Franks. Hess’s girlfriend and his siblings corroborated his story, though the sister did not have any injuries. Franks, who had driven himself to a hospital, had been stabbed several times. Franks’s description of his attacker matched Hess’s appearance. Hess was charged with aggravated battery. SIU’s Director of Students reviewed the incident reports and recommended that Hess be suspended. Although he received personal notice of his rights, Hess did not request an interim hearing, and, while suspended, missed final exams. At a subsequent hearing, Hess testified but said little. His counsel, who was present, had instructed him not to answer questions. Hess’s girlfriend testified on his behalf. Byrne testified that officers had found no evidence that Hess had a knife. Hess was expelled; he filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The university is not a “person” from whom money damages can be obtained under section 1983. Hess established neither a protected property interest nor a protected liberty interest; even if he had proven such an interest, defendants provided Hess with sufficient procedural protections. View "Hess v. Bd. of Trs. of S. Ill. Univ." on Justia Law