Owens v. Board of Education of Chicago, No. 16-3607 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Owens became the maintenance supervisor at Phillips Academy. Months later, he came under supervision by Miller. According to Owens, he told Miller that he had an age-discrimination suit pending against the Board of Education. She replied: “Do you think you’re going to keep your job?” Owens maintains that he reminded Miller about the suit weeks later. She replied: “I think you lost your mind ... you think you’re going to keep your job.” The next month Miller gave Owens an “unsatisfactory” rating, the worst he had received since 1975. Owens contends that Miller told him: “I told you you weren’t going to get away with that.” Months later. the Board of Education, with a shrinking budget and declining enrollment, laid off 25 maintenance workers. Owens took early retirement, which he characterized as constructive discharge, alleging that Miller discriminated based on his age (61) and his first suit. The district court granted the Board summary judgment, finding that Miller had legitimate reasons to downrate Owens, who had several performance deficits. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part: the record would not permit a reasonable trier of fact to conclude that Owens’s age influenced his “unsatisfactory” rating. Owens’s retaliation theory, however, cannot be resolved on summary judgment. A reasonable juror could conclude that Miller threatened to get rid of Owens on account of his lawsuit and used the rating to do that.