Former Employee of School District Cannot Prove Sex Discrimination

By April 23, 2014April 29th, 2015News

In Bass v. Joliet Public School District No. 86, Corina Bass, a former employee of Joliet Public School District No. 86 alleged that she was discriminated against on the basis of her gender and brought an action against the district under Title VII of theCivil Rights Act of 1964. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the school district, and the Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding that the district did not discriminate against Bass when it terminated her.

First, Bass alleged that the district discriminated against her by assigning her additional work to complete during her shift. The additional work had been part of a male coworker’s duties prior to the reassignment. The Seventh Circuit found that Bass forfeited this argument because she did not challenge the district court’s finding that the reassignment did not qualify as an adverse employment action.

Additionally, Bass argued that she was terminated on the basis of her gender. On the other hand, the district argued that it terminated Bass because she did not return to work after exhausting her leaves of absence. Further, the district showed that it terminated three male custodians under similar circumstances between 2008 and 2011.

Under the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), Bass was entitled to sick leave and a one-time disability leave for up to twelve months. The CBA additionally provided that the district could terminate employees who were absent after exhausting all leave. In August 2010, Bass injured her back and took family medical leave. However, prior to this time she had already taken two leaves, which exceeded the amount of leave to which she was entitled to under the CBA. Bass received a doctor’s note permitting her to return to light-duty work; however, the district had a long-standing policy of not permitting light-duty assignments for custodians.

After Bass exhausted all leave, the district held a meeting with her to discuss her unexcused absences. During this meeting, Bass did not reply when asked if she would be able to return to work without restrictions. Therefore, the district terminated her as permitted by the CBA.

The Seventh Circuit held that Bass was unable to demonstrate that she had any evidence that her termination was for a prohibited reason. She could not present circumstantial or direct evidence that she was discriminated against. Additionally, Bass could not show that she performed her job satisfactorily, or that similarly situated employees of the opposite sex were treated more favorably. In light of the lack of evidence of discrimination and the undisputed facts showing proper reasons for termination, the Seventh Circuit agreed with the district court that the district was entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

The Seventh Circuit further ordered Bass’s attorney to show cause as to why he should not be sanctioned for filing a frivolous appeal.