Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Employment Law: New Seventh Circuit Case

A report on a new Indiana employment discrimination case out of the federal 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. I still have not had time to track down and read the original opinion, but I think employer and employees should read The Indiana Lawyer's 7th Circuit reverses judge, orders new trial:

"The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered a new trial in a workplace discrimination case, making a point in its ruling to question the district judge's decision-making during the first trial."
A nine-page ruling came today in Elizabeth A. Bright v. Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc. and Colgate-Palmolive Company, No. 06-3927, which U.S. District Judge David F. Hamilton in the Southern District of Indiana presided over during trial in 2005.

Writing for the unanimous three-judge panel, Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook delved into caselaw about employer responsibility in workplace discrimination issues and questioned some of Judge Hamilton's rulings on the case, specifically jury instruction and a sanctions order post-trial.


Before trial, Judge Hamilton had concluded that the Morgan ruling entitled Bright to present evidence during her complete employment term. But mid-trial, Judge Hamilton "changed his mind" and instructed the jury it couldn't consider anything relating to pornographic images and before the 300 days prior to filing her charge.

The 7th Circuit wrote that Morgan treats the totality of the working conditions as a single practice and that "employers cannot turn a practice that Morgan deems unitary into two or more distinct practices by calling each subdivision of the workplace into a separate 'team.'" Additionally, the court noted that federal civil jury instructions show that both the plaintiff and employer should be allowed to present their full evidentiary cases at trial and the district judge should instruct on all those issues.
With any luck, I will have a follow up post.