A longtime Illinois city accountant who also served in the
Naval Reserves sued his employer for discriminating against him because of two
tours of military duty. He claimed that the responsibilities he was given on
both returns were demotions. Eventually, he sued.
What happened. We use
the word “eventually” because “Morgan” didn’t sue regarding his 1991 return
until 2003. Then he also sued for what he felt was a demotion in 1997. Morgan
joined the Naval Reserves in 1987 and went to work for Chicago’s Aviation
Department in 1990. He was a certified public accountant who initially managed
accounts receivable and was charged with automating the city’s fee
determinations for airlines and concessionaires at O’Hare and Midway airports.
The following year, he was called to duty in the first Gulf War, from which he
returned 7 months later. He later alleged that his supervisor was unhappy about
his tour, but records showed that he was given a raise of more than $6,000 on
The following year, Morgan filed a complaint with the
Department of Labor but withdrew it after several months. In 1993, the
department was reorganized, and Morgan got a new job title that sounded less
grand than his old ones—but he also received a raise of almost $5,500. In
1996, Morgan was again called to military duty, this time in Bosnia. On his
return 9 months later, his supervisor initially refused to reinstate him to his
former job until ordered to do so. Finally, Morgan was transferred to a different
job and location in 1998.
When he finally sued in 2003 that his alleged demotions had
violated his rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment
Rights Act, a federal district court judge ruled his 1991 claims were too old
to consider but sent the 1997 charge to a jury, which voted against him. He
appealed to the 7th Circuit, which covers Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.
What the court said. Appellate
judges agreed with the district judge that Morgan had waited much too long to
file suit for alleged mistreatment in 1991. They also noted that by 2007, when
Morgan testified, his compensation was almost twice what it had been in 1993.
They heard dozens of Morgan’s allegations about insults he’d received from
bosses, along with lists of why he had seen various jobs as less responsible or
prestigious than what he deserved. But they validated the district court’s
actions, and Morgan lost again. Maher v. City of Chicago, U.S.
Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, No. 07-2911 (10/31/08).
Point to remember: Judges were no doubt influenced by Morgan’s periodic salary increases; it’s
hard to see raises as adverse employment steps.