Employee’s claims for discrimination and harassment were not inextricably linked to retaliatory discharge claim!

In a recent, Seventh Circuit Opinion, the Court, sustained a jury award for gender discrimination, harassment, retaliatory discharge, intentional infliction of emotional distress and related torts based on the termination of Mendez by Pearl Dental.  The Employer did not raise lack of subject matter jurisdiction or pre-emption by the Illinois Human Rights Act, until after the jury award in favor of Mendez.

The Court reconfirmed the inextricably linked analysis, by stating that Mendez’s claims were not pre-empted, because they were based on independent facts.  In essence, the termination for the filing of a police report is sufficient in and of itself to justify a wrongful discharge claim.  The allegations relating to sexual harassment were unnecessary for Mendez to maintain her retaliatory discharge claim.

The Seventh Circuit also went on to state that there was no plain error in the jury instructions and this argument was waived.  Thus, the Employer was stuck with the Jury Award in favor of Mendez (including compensatory and punitive damages).  It does not seem like it would have mattered, but the Employer did not raise the jurisdictional and plain error arguments properly.  Thus, Mendez was able to prevail on her claims.

Attached is the Mendez v. Perla Dental case.  Perla Dental Case

If you are an employer or an employee that has any questions or concerns about prosecuting, defending, or mitigating the risk of Title VII claims, then please feel free to contact us.  Having a good human resource policy and training personnel helps manage the business risks associated with these claims.

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