The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, located in Chicago, Illinois, recently discussed the proof a plaintiff must offer when prosecuting a retaliatory discharge case. In McCoy v. Maytag, Thomas McCoy brought a retaliatory case against his former employer, Maytag, for firing him after he filed a Workers Compensation Act. The Court, in the course of its opinion, set forth the elements a Illinois plaintiff must prove: 1) that he was the defendant’s employee before the injury; 2) that the employee exercised a right granted by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and 3) that he was discharged from his employment with a causal connection to his filing the Workers’ Compensation claim. The hard part in these cases is the third element – causation. The Court noted that “The element of causation is not met if the employer has a valid basis, which is not pretextual, for discharging the employee.” So what does that mean in English? The Court explained that in order to show pretext, “…a plainitff must offer evidence to indicate that the employer did not honestly believe the reasons it gave for its action and is simply lying to cover its tracks.” Pretext “…means more than a mistake on the part of the employer; pretext means a lie, a specifically a phony reason for some action.” In short, the plaintiff has to show the employer’s reason for discharge was a lie. Not an easy thing to prove, as Mr. McCoy found out. The Seventh Circuit upheld the Trial Court’s decision to grant summary judgment against plaintiff, ruling that the plaintiff’s failure to provide regular updates to justify his absence from work[required under the Collective Bargaining Agreement]was a non-pretextual reason for the termination.