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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides several Indiana cases today

In SIKIRU ADEYEYE v. HEARTLAND SWEETENERS, LLC (SD Ind., Lawrence), a 23-page opinion, Judge Hamilton writes:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of religion. Among other consequences, the law requires a covered employer to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s request to participate in a religious observance or practice if an accommodation would not cause the employer undue hardship. Plaintiff Sikiru Adeyeye made such a request to his former employer, defendant Heartland Sweeteners, LLC, after his father’s death. Adeyeye is a native of Nigeria who moved to the United States in 2008. He requested several weeks of unpaid leave so he could travel to Nigeria to lead his father’s burial rites. He explained to Heartland that his participation in the funeral ceremonies was “compulsory” and that if he failed to lead the burial rites, he and his family members would suffer at least spiritual death. Heartland denied Adeyeye’s request, but he traveled to Nigeria for the ceremonies anyway. He was fired when he returned and reported to work.

Adeyeye filed this suit under Title VII for failure to accommodate his religion. The district court granted summary judgment for Heartland, finding that Adeyeye’s two written requests did not present evidence sufficient for a reasonable jury to find that he had provided Heartland notice of the religious character of his request for unpaid leave. We disagree. Whether or not Adeyeye’s letters might have justified holding as a matter of law that they provided sufficient notice of the religious nature of his request (a question we do not decide), they certainly are sufficient to present a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Heartland had notice of the religious nature of the request. We also find that genuine issues of material fact prevent us from affirming summary judgment on any of the other grounds argued by Heartland. We reverse the district court’s judgment and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

In UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. TERRY L. SABO (ND Ind., Springmann), a 5-page opinion, Judge Darrow (of the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, sitting by designation) writes:
The only question presented in this appeal is whether Terry Sabo consented to a search of his residence. We find that his nonverbal actions manifested consent and affirm.
In NORMAN W. BERNSTEIN, et al. v. PATRICIA A. BANKERT, et al. (SD Ind., Young), a 75-page opinion on rehearing, Judge DeGuilio (of the Northern District of Indiana, sitting by designation) begins:
This appeal is the latest chapter in the story of the Environmental Chemical and Conservation Company (“Enviro-Chem”), a defunct Indiana corporation with an expensive environmental legacy. Enviro-Chem conducted waste-handling and disposal operations at three sites north of Zionsville, Indiana, until it closed its doors in the early 1980s, and it left considerable amounts of pollutants behind. The plaintiffs in this action are the trustees of a fund created to finance and oversee the cleanup project at one of those three sites. The defendants are the former owners of the site, their corporate entities (including EnviroChem), and their insurers, none of whom have paid into the trust despite an alleged obligation to do so. The plaintiffs sued to recover cleanup costs under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), the Indiana Environmental Legal Actions Statute (“ELA”), and more. The district court dismissed all claims at the summary judgment stage, and the plaintiffs appealed. In response, one of the insurance companies targeted by the plaintiffs filed a conditional cross-appeal, hoping to preserve a favorable outcome even in the event of a reversal of the district court’s final judgment.
In BERNARD HAWKINS v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (ND Ind., Moody) the Court issues two documents, this 2-page denial of a petition to rehear the case en banc, AND this 22-page supplement by Judge Posner, which "explains why a majority of the panel does not believe that rehearing is warranted by the Supreme Court’s decision in Peugh v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2707 (2013), rendered after the panel opinion."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 31, 2013 01:58 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions