Appellate Court Rejects Retaliation Claim
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected an employee’s claim of unlawful retaliation. Marion Gordon was employed by FedEx as a clerk. Gordon injured herself on the job and told her employer that she required further medical treatment. A few hours later, FedEx managers decided to eliminate Gordon’s job. Gordon went on medical leave, and when she returned, she was told that her job was eliminated in a company wide reduction in force (RIF). Gordon filed a claim known as retaliatory discharge. Illinois law prohibits an employer from firing an employee because she either filed a worker’s compensation claim for on the job injuries, or seeks benefits for the injury under the law. The employee must prove what is known as a causal connection, that is, that the employer improperly fired an employee within a short time after the employee engages in protected activity. The federal district court dismissed the case in favor of FedEx. Gordon appealed. The reviewing court held that Gordon could not establish that her firing “was primarily in retaliation” for her pursuing her remedies under Illinois state law. The Seventh Circuit also held that the employer offered a non-retaliatory reason for Gordon’s discharge. Unlike other employment discrimination claims, retaliatory discharge cases can be especially problematic for employers if they are successful as there is no cap on punitive damages.