Jirek v. Astrazeneca Pharm. LP, No. 21 C 6929, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12667 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 25, 2023)

An Illinois court ruled in favor of a Biopharmaceutical Company (the “Company”) in a suit where three sales employees sued the Company for discriminating against them based on their sex. Specifically, the employees argued that, in violation of various federal and state laws, male employees of the Company received higher compensation than their female counterparts.

Before this lawsuit, the U.S. Department of Labor (the “DOL”) launched an investigation of the company, which revealed that between 2015 and 2016, the company paid female employees less than its male equivalents. The Company entered into an agreement with DOL which affirmed that the DOL would not pursue enforcement for the alleged violations the investigation identified if the Company takes actions to remedy the violations. In compliance with the agreement, the Company notified its female personnel that they “…were paid significantly less than male sales representatives in the same or similar sales positions, because of [their] sex.” As a result, some employees filed a lawsuit against the Company. 

The court ruled in favor of the Company, finding that the three representatives did not provide enough facts to support their allegations. The court explained that having the same job classifications is different from doing the same work. Because the employees failed to describe their job responsibilities and provide a comparable male-example for the court to evaluate, it sided with the Company. The court rejected the broad and generalized descriptions of the responsibilities of the employees for the lack of details.


Tekmen v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co., 55 F.4th 951 (4th Cir. 2022) 

Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the process of summary judgment—judgment entered by court without a full trial, based on the ERISA benefit file and the law—has been a long-standing topic of discussion. The issue recently came into play in a case that involved a claim for long-term disability benefits.  


In that case, the insurance carrier (the “Carrier”) denied an individual’s claim for benefits related to a concussion they suffered in a car accident. The carrier argued that the condition of the individual’s health did not warrant the issuance of long-term disability benefits, and the individual filed a suit in court against the carrier. The litigation survived the summary judgment motion and escalated to a bench trial which resulted in the individual’s favor. 

The Carrier appealed, arguing that the court was required to dispose of the case through a summary judgment, rather than conduct a bench trial. Additionally, the Carrier argued that the appellate court should have reviewed the lower court’s decision from the start.

The appellate court rejected the carrier’s argument that summary judgment was a requirement for the lower court. The appellate court explained that summary judgment was an inappropriate measure in matters containing a genuine issue about dispositive facts, the ones that required the probing of conflicting pieces of evidence or witness-credibility assessments. “[W]here . . . directly at-odds contentions regarding whether the individual’s claimed impairment is genuine, [the court saw] no alternative” to having the lower court engage in fact-finding, as opposed to entering a judgment based on law. This case joins many other appellate rulings that have begun to question the procedures that courts have applied to adjudicating ERISA claims. Additionally, this case not only deviates, but also expressly rejects the approach that some courts undertake of applying an alternative-summary-judgment-procedure. 

The rule governing the appropriateness of a summary judgment in ERISA litigation has been modified by several courts. Yet, in this case, the appellate court rejected the approach taken by its sister-courts and highlighted how summary judgment has been misused in ERISA litigation. The appellate court sided with the individual in need of benefits in holding that summary judgment would not be applicable in a matter where medical conclusions drawn by doctors were in conflict.