Federal Appellate Court Gives OK To Discrimination Lawsuit Against Cook County

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court's decision to dismiss a Muslim woman's national origin case against Cook County.  Fozyia Huri, a Cook County Circuit Court employee, alleged that she was subjected to a hostile work environment for years.  Huri worked as a child care attendant until she was transferred to the court reporters' office in 2010.  She claimed that her supervisors screamed at her, accused her of misconduct, ostracized her, and denied her time off for a religious holiday.  She also claims that her employer retaliated against her after she made internal complaints.  The federal district court dismissed the case for failing to state a claim.  The federal appeals court disagreed, ruling that her allegations could be severe and pervasive enough to create an abusive environment.  Huri's case will now head toward trial.  It is possible that her case could be settled in advance, however.  Should Huri prevail, she would be entitled to recover compensatory damages and attorney's fees.

Appellate Court Clarifies Whistleblower Act

In a recent decision, the Illinois Appellate Court ruled that where a defendant did not act within the scope of his or her employment, there can be no liability under the state whistleblower act.  In August, 2006, Sara Meegan was hired to teach English at George Washington High School in Chicago.  Two years later, in February, 2008, the principal, Florence Gonzalez, told Meegan that the school was going to terminate her employment due to a decrease in enrollment.  In April, 2008, Meegan attended a meeting called by the Chicago Teachers Union.  At the meeting, Meegan stated that the gang activity at the school was caused by "disgruntled teachers instigating the students to violence."  In August, 2008, Carlos Munoz, the principal of Amundsen High School, interviewed Meegan for a job.  Munoz extended a job offer to Meegan, but later rescinded it after Gonzalez described her as "dishonest, habitually tardy, [and] often absent."  Munoz also claimed that Meegan failed to complete her work.  Meegan filed a lawsuit asserting various claims and sought attorneys fees for Gonzalez' alleged defamatory statements at the union meeting.  Though Meegan was successful at trial, the appellate court held since Gonzalez was not acting as Meegan's employer, she could not be held liable under the Whistleblower Act.