March 2022

Lending Company Upholds Summary Judgment On Appeal in ADA Discrimination and FMLA Interference and Retaliation Case

United States - Illinois

A leading lending company won summary judgment and upheld the decision on appeal in an employment discrimination lawsuit filed in the Northern District of Illinois. A cross-office team of Faegre Drinker professionals worked for the employer on the matter.

The company hired the plaintiff as a pre-fund auditor responsible for reviewing pre-fund loans. During her first year of employment, the plaintiff’s manager conducted ongoing training with her due to mistakes on audit files. While she was on non-FMLA medical leave, the bank discovered multiple issues with the plaintiff’s review of a loan. Upon returning to work, the plaintiff’s manager told her about the mistakes and requested she complete more training before auditing files again. The plaintiff then took FMLA leave, during which time the company discovered more errors on multiple loans, causing the loans to be closed with uncurable defects. The company then terminated the plaintiff. Following termination, the company discovered mistakes on four more loans. The plaintiff claimed that the company discriminated against her in violation of ADA due to her disability, interfered with her FMLA rights as she was not reinstated to the same position she held before she took FMLA leave, and retaliated against her with termination for taking FMLA leave.

A swift and expeditious ruling by the U.S. district court in April 2021 granted the company’s motion in its entirety, and explained that the plaintiff had failed to set forth evidence raising a triable issue of fact that her termination was caused by her disability. Further, the court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that she was not returned to the same position after her FMLA leave because she could not begin reviewing loan files immediately upon her return. Finally, the court found that the company presented ample evidence of a nondiscriminatory rationale for her termination and the plaintiff was unable to refute this evidence.

In March 2022, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision, finding that the company had shown multiple instances of deficiencies in the plaintiff's work starting at her first year at the company. The plaintiff's termination came after a weeklong investigation by the company’s human resources department and there was no evidence that the investigation was simply a “rubber stamp.” In addition, the fact that the company waited to terminate the plaintiff until the investigation was completed only supports a finding that there was no discriminatory FMLA retaliation.  The Seventh Circuit court further rejected the plaintiff's argument that she was not properly reinstated when she returned from leave because her supervisor told her to catch up on emails and watch training videos instead of letting her audit loans, reasoning that it was reasonable for an employer to require an employee to catch up on missed work.

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