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Woman loses appeal of discrimination lawsuit against employer

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court that a pharmaceutical company did not discriminate against a sales representative based on her age or retaliate against her for filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Julia Hutt worked as a sales rep for Solvay Pharmaceuticals since 2001. In 2008, she was issued a performance improvement plan and placed on informal warning status by supervisors Brian Lozen and Jeff Westfall based on uncompleted administrative tasks. Hutt was issued another PIP in 2008 and also warned two more times that year based on her performance. Because of her employment status, she was not eligible for any bonuses.

In 2009, she filed her complaint with the EEOC. She was taken off of final warning status in April 2010, retroactive to December 2009. Based on her status, she was ineligible for incentive pay and bonuses for seven consecutive quarters.

The District Court ruled in favor of Solvay, now known as AbbVie Products LLC, finding Hutt failed to identify a similarly situated comparator to show discrimination and retaliation. And because she was ineligible for bonus payments while on warning status, she has no cause of action under the Indiana Wage Payment Statute as she had alleged. Hutt was 54 at the time the court granted summary judgment for her employer.

Hutt only stated a claim for discrimination under the direct method, and the 7th Circuit found that her claim fails because it lacks both direct and circumstantial evidence. She provided no evidence that Westfall, Lozen or any other employee admitted to discriminating against her based on her age. They also found there was no evidence, as Hutt claimed, that the treatment of her and another employee, who was 59 and also put on warning status and later fired, had anything to do with their ages.

Her retaliation claim fails because she doesn’t assert a causal connection between the filing of the EEOC charge and Solvay’s adverse employment actions. She was already on formal warning status at the time her EEOC charge was filed.

“Her chosen legal theory – retaliation – calls for evidence of adverse employment actions linked to a protected activity, not just evidence of problematic hostility,” Judge John Tinder wrote.

Hutt also failed to develop her bad-faith argument regarding her Wage Payment Statute claim and cannot now raise it for the first time on appeal, the court held in Julia Hutt v. AbbVie Products LLC, 13-1481.
 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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