Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motion for summary judgment in an action alleging claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 42 U.S.C. 1983, and Illinois law. Plaintiff filed suit on behalf of himself and a certified class of similarly situated part-time and adjunct faculty, challenging Oakton Community College's change in hiring practices such that the college would no longer employ retired state employees if they were also beneficiaries of the State University Retirement System. In regard to the ADEA claim, the court held that the district court applied the appropriate burden of proof where the ADEA and the cases interpreting it make clear that a policy may have a disparate impact on older workers as long as the employer shows that the policy was based on a reasonable factor other than age (RFOA); the district court correctly concluded that a reasonable jury would be compelled to find that Oakton's reason was an RFOA; and the district court properly required defendants to prove that Oakton's policy was, in fact, based on reasonable factors other than age. Likewise, the section 1983 claim failed because there was no ADEA violation. Finally, plaintiff's retaliatory discharge claim lacked merit. View "Dayton v. Oakton Community College" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants after defendants refused to provide school transportation (or equivalent cash benefits) to plaintiffs' children. The court held that the record did not establish that the Superintendent or the school district furnished or withheld public benefits on the basis of non-neutral religious criteria; nor did the evidence support the claim that public officials impermissibly determined the school's affiliation on the basis of theology, ecclesiology, or ritual; but, rather, it showed that public officials applied a secular statute that limits benefits to a single school affiliated with any sponsoring group. In this case, St. Augustine declared itself to be Catholic. View "St. Augustine School v. Evers" on Justia Law

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In 2008 Indiana University hired Haynes, who is black, as an assistant professor, funding most of his salary through the Strategic Recruitment Fund, which facilitates "recruitment of underrepresented minorities and women into the professoriate.” Haynes had a six-year probationary contract. Tenure candidates are evaluated on research, teaching, and service and must be “excellent” in one area and “satisfactory” in the others. In 2013, Haynes submitted his tenure dossier, selecting research as his "excellence" performance area. The committee voted 6–3 against tenure. The dean wrote that “the committee questioned the extent of Dr. Haynes’[s] impact based on low citation numbers and low numbers of publications in high-quality journals” and that Haynes’s “evaluations ha[d] been mixed[] and particularly low in the online courses” and failed to show “significant improvement.” The university-wide Tenure Advisory Committee voted unanimously against tenure; 18 of 27 faculty members found his teaching unsatisfactory and 19 found his research not excellent. Haynes sued under the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. 1981, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the University, upholding the exclusion of Haynes’s proffered expert reports for lack of “specialized knowledge.” A plaintiff needs compelling evidence that “clear discrimination” pervasively infected the tenure decision; this case was “not a close one.” Regardless of the finer points of academic tenure and its intersection with anti-discrimination law. Haynes lacks any evidence that the University denied tenure because he is black. View "Haynes v. Indiana University" on Justia Law

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B.G. lived alternately with his mother (who speaks only Spanish) and siblings in a small apartment, and with his father, who apparently left B.G. to his own devices. He repeated first grade. B.G. was diagnosed with a specific learning disability and had significant behavior and attendance issues. B.G.’s father died in 2014. B.G was hospitalized with diagnoses of morbid obesity, hypertension, severe hypoxia syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, and obstructive sleep apnea. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services received a report that his mother was not able to care for her children. B.G.’s mother requested a Due Process Hearing with the State Board of Education, alleging that the Chicago Public School District had violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act. The District gave B.G. an aide, moved him to a classroom with a teacher familiar with “multisensory approaches,” and performed assessments of B.G.’s educational needs. Although she did not object to the report, B.G.’s mother requested Independent Educational Evaluations at public expense in seven areas. The State Board of Education concluded that the District's evaluations were appropriate. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The hearing officer conducted a five-day hearing, heard the relevant evidence, and concluded that the District’s experts evaluated B.G. appropriately; the record shows that the District’s evaluators were competent, well-trained, and performed comprehensive evaluations. Particularly under the deferential standard of review applicable here, there is no cause to set aside the hearing officer’s well-reasoned decision. View "B.G. v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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Doe claims that she was sexually assaulted by a security guard at her middle school while she was in eighth grade. She filed suit under Title IX, 20 U.S.C. 1681(a). To obtain damages, Doe was required to prove that a school official had actual knowledge of the alleged conduct. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in the school district’s favor. A reasonable jury could not have found that Ptak, the principal at Doe’s middle school, had actual knowledge of the security guard’s misconduct. It is undisputed that Ptak was unaware of Doe’s allegations of sexual abuse until after Doe had graduated; during Doe’s eighth‐grade year, no teacher or staff member had reported any incidents or concerns regarding the security guard and Doe to Ptak. Nor does Ptak recall seeing any physical contact between Collins and Doe during that school year. Doe relied on events that occurred during the previous school year to establish that Ptak had actual knowledge of the risk that the security guard would abuse Doe. View "Jane Doe No. 55 v. Madison Metropolitan School District" on Justia Law

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Deppe, a punter, enrolled at Northern Illinois University (NIU), a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I school, in 2014 without an athletic scholarship. Deppe decided to “red shirt” his first year; he practiced with the team but did not compete, so the clock did not run on his four years of NCAA athletic eligibility. In 2015 NIU signed another punter, so he looked for a new program. Coaches at the University of Iowa, another Division I school, told Deppe they wanted him if he would be eligible to compete during the 2016–2017 season. The NCAA indicated that under its year-in-residence rule, Deppe would be ineligible to compete for one year following his transfer. An exception permitting a one-time transfer with immediate athletic eligibility in limited circumstances was unavailable to Deppe. A player who transfers under extenuating circumstances may obtain a waiver of the NCAA’s requirement that a student’s four years of playing time be completed in five calendar years; the school to which he transfers must initiate the process. Iowa's football staff notified Deppe that the team had decided to pursue another punter who had immediate eligibility and would not initiate the process for him. Deppe sued the NCAA on behalf of himself and a proposed class alleging violations of the Sherman Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal. The year-in-residence requirement is an eligibility rule clearly meant to preserve the amateur character of college athletics, is therefore presumptively procompetitive, and need not be tested for anticompetitive effect under a full rule-of-reason analysis. View "Deppe v. National Collegiate Athletic Association" on Justia Law

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The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that full-time staff members who also teach part-time (50-75 individuals, “FTST”) were included in the Part-Time Faculty Association at Columbia College Chicago (PFAC) bargaining unit for the purposes of their part-time faculty duties. Under the collective bargaining agreement’s recognition clause FTST are part-time faculty members and arguably fall under the scope of the general inclusion but also qualify as full-time staff members, which are expressly excluded from representation. An arbitrator vacated the ruling. The Seventh Circuit upheld the NLRB decision. Given the primacy of the NLRB’s determination, the countervailing arbitration decision cannot stand. The National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 159, “confers broad discretion on the Board to determine appropriate bargaining units,” because “the bargaining unit determination is a representational question reserved in the first instance to the Board.” View "Part-time Faculty Association v. Columbia College Chicago" on Justia Law

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Manley, a school board member, was not up for reelection but her allies were when she had a verbal altercation with a student who was leaf-letting for Manley’s political opponents outside a high school play. The student accused Manley of bullying; the student and her parents pursued a campaign to embarrass Manley with online petitions, newspaper articles, and comments at public meetings. The superintendent began an investigation. Manley sued to enjoin the investigation. No injunction was issued. A public report found that Manley violated a board policy calling for “mutual respect, civility and orderly conduct” at school events. The board formally admonished Manley. Manley did not seek reelection. Manley’s claim for damages was rejected on summary judgment for failure to offer evidence of a required element of a due process claim: the deprivation of a constitutionally recognized liberty or property interest. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Manley’s claims that she was deprived of a feeling of fair‐dealing on the part of the government; her mental and emotional well‐being; and processes mandated by the state and the district. The Constitution does not require government officials to avoid upsetting other officials; this “unprecedented theory’s threat to robust public debate is obvious.” Emotional distress alone is insufficient to prove a denial of due process. Manley identified no substantive liberty or property interest attached to the procedural rules the district allegedly violated. View "Manley v. Law" on Justia Law

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Wisconsin law gives state university students rights to organize themselves and to run their governments, which have the power to spend substantial funds. Plaintiffs, the University of Wisconsin Madison (UWM) Student Association and former and current UWM students, alleged a conspiracy to interfere with student governance in violation of various rights protected by 42 U.S.C. 1983. They claim that the UWM administration excluded certain students from student government by unseating the legitimately elected officers and replacing them over several years with a supposedly “puppet” student government with a similar name, the defendant Student Association at UWM. The district court dismissed the suit with prejudice. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claims against the defendants who were not timely served with process and the dismissal of a right-to-organize claim under state law. The court reversed the dismissal with prejudice of the remaining claims for misjoinder, stating that it could understand the district court’s frustration, but the remedy for misjoinder is severance or dismissal without prejudice. View "UWM Student Association v. Lovell" on Justia Law

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College of DuPage hired Breuder as its president. After extensions, his contract ran through 2019. In 2015 newly-elected members of the Board of Trustees, having campaigned on a pledge to remove Breuder, discharged him without notice or a hearing. Board resolutions stated that Breuder had committed misconduct. The Board did not offer him a hearing and refused to comply with clauses in his contract covering severance pay and retirement benefits. Breuder filed suit, citing Illinois contract and defamation law and 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Board as an entity moved to dismiss the complaint, contending that Breuder never had a valid contract because, under Illinois law, a governmental body whose members serve limited terms may not enter into contracts that extend beyond those terms. Individual Board members moved to dismiss the 1983 claim on qualified immunity grounds. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of both motions. The court noted precedent allowing Illinois Community Colleges to grant their presidents tenure beyond the date of the next board election. Rejecting claims of qualified immunity, the court noted that a hearing is required whenever the officeholder has a “legitimate claim of entitlement.” In discharging Breuder, the Board stated that he had committed misconduct. Even a person who has no property interest in a public job has a constitutional entitlement to a hearing before being defamed during a discharge, or at least a name-clearing hearing after the discharge. View "Breuder v. Hamilton" on Justia Law