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7th Circuit: No discrimination in firing

April 7, 2016

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a woman did not suffer discrimination and the company did not retaliate against her for filing a workers’ compensation claim after she was fired for extending her medical leave.

Nora Chaib worked for GEO Group, a company that provides private correctional and detention management services to government agencies. During the time, she filed many complaints with her supervisor regarding racist comments and harassment. After about seven months of work, Chaib was injured by a metal gate, which struck her in the forehead. She complained of a headache, blurred vision, nausea and dizziness, and had a concussion. Her time off work kept being extended because it seemed her symptoms were not improving.

However, GEO became suspicious of Chaib after a while and thought she was malingering. They secretly observed her running errands and driving her car around town. They sent a video to her neurologist, who also thought she was malingering. When Chaib returned to work after six weeks, she was subsequently fired for unbecoming conduct after the company rejected a claim from the superintendent she be fired for falsifying records. She filed suit in the Southern District of Indiana claiming discrimination and retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim, but the federal court granted summary judgment for GEO. Chaib appealed only her discrimination claim, in which she alleged discrimination based on race, sex and national origin.

Chaib claimed the District Court erred by not requiring GEO to present facts in the case most favorable to her. However, Judge James Peterson, of the Western District of Wisconsin who was sitting by designation and wrote the opinion in the case, said that would be “unworkable.”

“But the idea that a District Court would deny an otherwise well-founded motion for summary judgment because the moving party did not present the facts in a manner favorable to the opposition would be unworkable and waste a great deal of time and money,” Peterson wrote.

Chaib claimed that the incidents she described of racist behavior, especially of one staff member, were enough to support the fact that she was fired for discrimination. However, there’s no evidence the staff member participated in the decision to fire her, and without any evidence connecting the acts to her firing, the claim does not have merit.

Chaib also cannot make a prima facie case for discrimination, as she cannot identify any other employees that were treated more fairly than her, and she cannot meet GEO Group’s legitimate job expectations because her undisputed conduct was inconsistent with her statements about her post-injury conduct.

The case is Nora Chaib v. The GEO Group Inc., 15-1614.
 
 

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