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Employee Who Sued Kane County for Wrongful Termination Secures Large Settlement

A former sheriff’s deputy did not take his termination lying down. He stood up and took action by filing a complaint in the United States District Court of Northern Illinois. The sheriff’s deputy alleged that he was fired due to his political leanings and the concern by his supervisor that he would run against him for the position of Sheriff.

In the complaint, the employee asked that the court issue an injunction and order his reinstatement to his prior position along with all wages and benefits. His claim for damages exceeded $1,000,000 since he was seeking reimbursement of wages dating back to 2008, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Reports indicate that this legal battle was rooted in a contentious relationship between the sheriff’s deputy and Kane County Sheriff. The two individuals disagreed over the sheriff’s deputy working in two public positions simultaneously – as a sheriff’s deputy in Kane County and as police chief in Maple Park.

The Sheriff reportedly reached out to members of the Maple Park Village Board and lobbied for the Board not to maintain its relationship with the sheriff’s deputy/police chief (who obtained permission from his supervisors to hold both positions years ago).

Squashing a Political Opponent

The lawsuit also revealed the fact that the Sheriff’s deputy was seriously contemplating running for Kane County Sheriff. The Sheriff’s deputy retained the services of a campaign manager and was raising money to mount a run. In the complaint, the Sheriff’s deputy alleged that there were an array of “fictitious complaints” made against him. The complaint also alleged that the Kane County Sheriff said that he was going to fire the Sheriff’s deputy because he was going to run against him one day.

Settlement Reached

The Kane County Board agreed to pay the sheriff’s deputy approximately $650,000 in an agreed-upon settlement. The settlement was reached in exchange for the sheriff’s deputy to agree to a release of all known and unknown claims against the county.

Termination for Political Speech or Views

If you work in the private sector, anti-retaliation laws generally do not protect you if you publicly express your political views or affiliations. However, if you work for a state or local government entity, you may be able to file a claim to seek financial restitution and other damages associated with any politically actions taken against you.

Speak to a Chicago Wrongful Termination Lawyer Today

If you suspect you were terminated due to your political views or affiliations, contact Goldman & Ehrlich today. Our law firm represents individuals and businesses in wrongful termination lawsuits.

Avoiding a Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit: Employer Responsibilities

Although it is against the law to discriminate against pregnant employees and applicants, employers continue to violate federal and state labor and employment laws more than you might think. While cases of blatant discrimination do exist, many employers that get slapped with a workplace discrimination lawsuit are surprised to learn they did anything wrong. Find out what you can do to comply with labor laws and avoid costly litigation.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under this law, a woman cannot be denied a job due to her pregnancy, as long as she is able to do the job. Employers also cannot treat her adversely because of her condition, such as withholding pay, benefits, or promotions. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act covers every aspect of employment, from hiring decisions to termination and everything in between. To protect your company from a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit, employers are encouraged to use discretion in the following situations.

Hiring Process and Decisions

You should never ask an employee or applicant if she is pregnant. Even if you do not make a hiring or promotion decision based on this information, just asking the question is a violation of federal labor laws. Employers should also avoid asking questions about a female applicant’s family and marital status, childcare arrangements, or plans to have children.

Temporary Disability

When an employee is unable to perform her normal job duties due to her pregnancy, she must be treated as any other employee with a temporary disability. She should be offered reasonable accommodations, light duty, disability leave, or any other options provided to other temporarily disabled employees, as needed based on her medical condition.

Maternity and Pregnancy Leave

Any disability leave offered to temporarily disabled employees must be extended to female employees that are unable to continue working for medical reasons during pregnancy. If your workplace is covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an eligible employee is entitled to up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for temporary disability resulting from pregnancy, recovery from childbirth, and/or caring for a new child. Employees (pregnant or not) that take leave through FMLA are protected from adverse treatment, such as reduced hours, reduced pay, harassment, demotion, or termination due to their absence.

Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyers in Chicago, IL

For more information about protecting your company from workplace discrimination lawsuits, contact the employment law attorneys at Goldman & Ehrlich.

 

Wrongful Termination in an At-Will Employment State

Like almost every other state in the U.S., Illinois is considered an “at-will” employment state. This means employers and employees can end their working relationship “at will,” meaning, whenever they want and for whatever reason. While an employer can fire an employee with or without notice for almost any reason, there are still limitations and restrictions on “at will” employment. When someone is fired in an unlawful manner, it is called “wrongful termination.”

Employment Discrimination Laws

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the landmark anti-discrimination legislation in the United States. Title VII of the law addresses employment discrimination and prevents employers from discriminating on the basis of:

  • race, color, or national origin
  • sex or gender (including pregnant women)
  • religious identity, practice, or beliefs

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects employees and applicants age 40 and older from age discrimination.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is another example of major comprehensive legislation that has shaped employment law in the United States. Title I of the law prohibits employers from discriminating based on a qualified person’s disability, instead requiring them to make reasonable accommodations for the disabled person when possible.

The Illinois Human Rights Act, among other things, protects employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Firing anyone based on their race, nationality, sex, religion, age, disability, or sexual orientation is considered wrongful termination in Illinois.

Breach of Contract

The majority of wrongful termination lawsuits stem from a breach of contract claim. Once executed, the terms of an employment contract must be followed. If someone is fired six months into a one-year contract, he may have a case for wrongful termination. However, written and signed employment contracts are not the only source of wrongful termination lawsuits based on breach of contract. Employee handbooks, verbal promises, and other sources of information could be considered implied contracts.

Retaliation

Employers are not allowed to fire someone for refusing to do something unlawful, such as working through lunch breaks or disregarding safety regulations. It is also unlawful to terminate someone for whistleblowing or reporting a superior’s wrongdoing. Employees cannot be let go in retaliation for taking legally protected time off (FMLA leave, jury duty, voting, etc.).

Employment Law Attorneys in Chicago, Illinois

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, reach out to the Chicago employment law attorneys at Goldman & Ehrlich. Contact us today to request a free consultation.

Proving Workplace Discrimination Based on Race, Ethnicity, or National Origin

It is against state and federal law to treat a person negatively in hiring or employment aspects because of his or her race, ethnicity, or nation of origin. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Illinois Human Rights Act prohibit employment discrimination based on race and several other protected classifications. The best way to find out if you have a viable race discrimination claim is to speak with an experienced employment law attorney.

Race Discrimination in the Workplace

Examples of discrimination in the workplace can include:

  • unequal pay, bonuses, and hours
  • lack of advancement opportunities
  • termination or demotion
  • harassment

If you believe you have experienced adverse treatment in the workplace due to your race, ethnicity, or nation of origin, you may have an employment discrimination claim. However, to successfully litigate a workplace discrimination claim, you must be able to present evidence that the adverse treatment was affected by a protected classification (including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, and nation of origin).

Establishing a Workplace Discrimination Claim

Employers usually realize it is unacceptable to terminate or demote someone based on their race or national origin. When asked, your boss will probably name a different reason for firing you, such as poor job performance. There are at least two ways to demonstrate there is a discrimination problem at your place of employment.

One way to establish the negative treatment you received was based on racial or ethnic prejudice is to prove that the employer’s reason for punishing you is likely false. Consider the following example: you are late to work for the second time in six months, and your boss terminates you, citing the tardiness. If you can prove other employees are chronically tardy, but are not punished, you may be able to establish a discrimination claim.

Another way to demonstrate you are a victim of discrimination is to show that you are only one example of a systemic problem in your workplace. For instance, if a new manager comes into an existing workplace and quickly fires every person of color for seemingly trivial reasons, you may be just a small part of a larger problem.

Need Legal Help? Call an Illinois Race Discrimination Attorney.

If you believe you have been a victim of employment discrimination, it is important to speak to an employment law attorney right away. Goldman & Ehrlich represents individuals and businesses in workplace discrimination disputes. Contact our office in Chicago, Illinois to request a free consultation.

Can an Employer Fire an Employee Who is Part of a Hate Group?

With the recent hate rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, still on everyone’s minds, employers are wondering about how this affects them and their businesses as a whole. Businesses tend to hire workers who have the same values as the company. So what happens when a business is associated with having racist white supremacist as an employee?

Many Americans are trying their best to stomp out hate and promote equality, and may not wish to do business with a company that appears to promote a racist agenda. What can employers do if they find out an employee took place in the hate rally or other controversial event? What are their rights under employment law?

What the Law Says

Illinois—like most other states—is an employment at-will state. Therefore, employers can, for the most part, fire someone for any cause as long as it does not violate the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This means that an employee cannot be fired based on reasons related to age, religion, race, color or gender.

Hate groups do not fall under any of those categories, although members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) have challenged that the KKK should be considered a religion. The courts have rejected that claim.

Even if the employee participates in hate rallies outside of work, participation can still affect workplace morale. For example, many photos of the Charlottesville hate rally circulated the internet. Many people posted them on social media. Should co-workers see these photos, they will likely be circulated around the office. This can cause tension and bad feelings.

The law is not clear-cut, however. There are no specific laws allowing an employer to terminate employment for offensive behavior outside of the workplace. Therefore, it is best for employers to look at each case individually and seek legal help to determine their rights.

Contact an Illinois Employment Law Firm Today

As an employer, it’s important to make sure you fire employees for the right reasons. While you cannot fire employees for reason such as age, gender and religion, you can make firing decisions based on an employee’s off duty activities that are controversial in nature.

If you have an employee engaging in agendas that promote hate and violence, you may be concerned about how this will project onto your business. These situations need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, so don’t make any decisions until you first contact Goldman & Ehrlich for help. Call us at (312) 332-6733 or complete our online contact form.

Age Discrimination: What Are Your Rights?

With many employers looking for fresh young talent, age discrimination is on the rise. Age discrimination occurs when an employee faces unfavorable treatment based on age. Those age 40 and older are protected by law.

Age discrimination laws affect all aspects of employment, including hiring, layoffs, firing, training, pay, benefits and promotions. If you feel your employer is discriminating against you because of your age, read on to learn about your options.

What Constitutes Harassment? 

Age is not a quality about ourselves that we can change. As such, workers should not have to face harassment in the workplace based on their age. Harassment can come from co-workers, supervisors and even clients. The law may not cover isolated incidents that tease someone about their age. However, if the teasing becomes a regular occurrence which makes the employee afraid or reluctant to even come to work, then the victim is likely facing a hostile environment based on age discrimination.

Employers do have the right to reprimand or discipline older workers for behavioral or performance issues. Such actions, by themselves, do not constitute harassment or age discrimination as long as age is not a factor, and younger employees are disciplined for the same performance issues.

Filing a Claim

If you are facing age discrimination, act quickly. You have 180 days to contact the Illinois Department of Human Rights and 300 days to contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to file a charge. It is advisable to retain an employment attorney to file these charges, though it is not required. The employer will be notified of the charge and the EEOC will investigate. If there is sufficient evidence to prove the charge, the employer will be asked to remedy the situation. If the dispute cannot be resolved, the EEOC may take legal action, but it is more likely the EEOC will issue a Right to Sue letter which allows the employee to file suit in court.

Once the EEOC is done investigating your case, you receive a letter stating that you have the right to sue your employer regardless of whether the EEOC believes your claim is supported or not. You will have 90 days to file a lawsuit from that point, so act quickly. Find an employment lawyer who can help you understand your options.

Contact an Illinois Employment Law Firm Today

It’s a proven fact: we all get older. Being turned down for a job or getting fired solely based on one’s age is unfair on many levels. Employers should realize the benefits that come with age, such as more experience and knowledge.

It can be difficult to know what facts and evidence are relevant to prove an age claim, or to know if you have a realistic chance of proving you were fired or not hired based on your age. You’ll need legal representation to uncover the required evidence. Contact Goldman & Ehrlich as soon as possible for help. Call us at (312) 332-6733 or complete our online contact form.

Discrimination Against Transgender Employees

In an ideal world, employees would be hired and remain employed with companies based on their performance. Unfortunately, many people are fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation—including being transgender.

There is no specific federal law banning employers from discriminating against transgender employees. However, many courts interpret transgender discrimination as a form of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

There are, however, 20 states and many cities that have laws protecting transgender employees, including Illinois. We are making progress, but employment discrimination still exists.

Hurdles Transgender Employees Face

President Donald Trump is seeking to implement a ban on transgender people in the military. However, discrimination in the workplace extends much further than that.

Unfairness and discrimination affect 2 million employees in the United States every year. These employees are teased, harassed, denied promotions, forced to stay away from clients and even fired. Many receive negative reactions from employers and co-workers and end up receiving negative performance reviews, even though they had excellent reviews in the past. Transgender people even face discrimination when applying for jobs.

Statistics from the National Center for Transgender Equality show that more than 25 percent of transgender people have lost jobs due to discrimination. Non-white transgenders face even higher rates of discrimination. Discrimination has affected 97 percent of transgender people, with many denied basic requirements such as bathrooms.

How Discrimination Affects Employers

Discrimination affects employers as well. Word gets around, and many consumers refuse to buy products from those who discriminate. Also, those looking for a job will overlook companies that deprive employees of their civil rights.

Employees who have faced or seen discrimination will deter others from doing business with offending companies. Thirteen percent would discourage recommending the employer’s services, and 27 percent would not recommend their employer to those looking for a job.

Contact an Illinois Employment Law Firm Today

With more and more people coming out as transgender or having a sexual orientation that an employer is uncomfortable with, it’s important that employers understand their rights and responsibilities. It is unfair to treat someone differently based on their sexual orientation, including in an employment environment.

If you were treated badly by an employer or fired solely because you are transgender or gay, contact Goldman & Ehrlich as soon as possible for help. Call us at (312) 332-6733 or complete our online contact form.

Fingerprint Time Clocks Pose Potential Problems for Employers

Biometric information is becoming more prevalent in our society, from fingerprints that unlock cellphones to facial recognition programs that identify individuals in pictures based upon their facial features. Some Illinois employers are even utilizing technology such as time clocks that utilize and store biometric data such as fingerprints from employees. While some business owners may feel this technological advance prevents employees from being paid for time they do not actually work (as other employees will not be able to clock absent or tardy employees into work), these devices are also proving to be troublesome for employers due to Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).

A Brief Overview of BIPA and Problems It Poses for Employers

Passed in 2008, Illinois’ BIPA is one of the most stringent laws in the country requiring private companies, agencies, and other entities to obtain consent from individuals prior to collecting or storing biometric data like fingerprints and iris scans. BIPA will also control the content and timing of notices that must be given to individuals whose biometric data has been collected and/or is being stored. The BIPA allows aggrieved individuals whose biometric data is collected, stored, and/or disseminated in violation of BIPA to collect up to $5,000 per incident (less if the BIPA violation was not intentional).

Some employers in Illinois have been sued under BIPA by employees claiming their fingerprints were obtained and/or stored in violation of BIPA’s requirements. More specifically, these employees claim that their employers collected their fingerprint data for use in their employers’ time clocks without telling the employees that such data would be collected and/or how it would be used and stored.

Contact Your Illinois Employment Law Firm Today

While this development should not discourage employers from looking for ways to enhance the efficiency of their businesses and promote greater accountability amongst their workers, this story should give employers pause and encourage them to seek legal counsel from an experienced and knowledgeable Illinois employment law attorney before enacting such drastic changes. Doing so can help ensure your new idea does not cause unintended consequences for you and your business.

If you are struggling with an employment law issue that is plaguing your Illinois business, contact Goldman & Ehrlich as soon as possible for help. Call us at 312-332-6733 or complete our online contact form.

You’ve Been Fired – What You Need to Know if You Were Terminated Unlawfully

Being unexpectedly terminated from your employment can be a disrupting experience – especially when it comes with little or no warning. It can also be particularly troubling if you believe that you were terminated on account of your race, ethnicity, religion, or any other protected classification or characteristic. While Illinois is an at-will employment state and either you or your employer may terminate your employment without giving notice and/or reason, an employer cannot terminate your employment for a discriminatory reason and attempt to hide behind the at-will employment laws. When your employment is terminated in contravention of the law, you are said to be the victim of a wrongful termination.

What if I Believe I Am Being Wrongfully Terminated?

If you find yourself called into your supervisor’s office and believe you are about to be terminated for an unlawful or discriminatory reason, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Making a scene, threatening your supervisor, or engaging in aggressive conduct will rarely accomplish anything and may give the employer an excuse to terminate you. In certain circumstances, such behavior may even result in you being charged with a criminal offense. Instead, attempt to remain as calm as possible and pay attention to all the details and things that are said during the termination process.
  2. Beware of violating Illinois’ eavesdropping law. Resist the temptation to immediately pull out your smartphone and begin recording the incident. If the conversation is taking place in a private location (such as your employer’s office) and all those present do not consent to the conversation being recorded, you may violate the law if you film or record the conversation anyway. But you can and should write a detailed summary of everything that was said as soon as possible while it is still fresh in your memory.
  3. Try to obtain specifics from your employer. If your employer offers you an opportunity to ask questions during the termination process, attempt to obtain the reason or reasons why your employer is terminating your employment. This can be helpful if your employer later attempts to justify your termination on other grounds.       If you have clear evidence that a stated reason is false, you can calmly explain why the reason is not accurate. E.g. showing your phone log to prove you did call in sick if they claim there was a no call no show.
  4. Take detailed notes about the termination and the circumstances surrounding your termination as soon as possible. Write down who was present at your termination and whether any reason was provided to you about why you were being terminated.

What To Do With Your Information

Take your information and visit with the experienced Illinois wrongful termination lawyers at Goldman & Ehrlich as soon as possible. We will assist you by evaluating the facts of your case and helping you understand what rights and legal options you may have. Contact our firm at 312-332-6733 or contact us through our website.

Strategies to Protect Your Business from Wrongful Termination Lawsuits

Terminating an employee creates a risk that the employee may file wrongful termination lawsuits if their employment with a company unexpectedly and unwillingly comes to an end. Even though Illinois is considered an “at-will” employment state, this does not mean that Illinois employers can terminate their employees for any reason at all. Specifically, terminating an employee because of the employee’s disability, sex, pregnancy, race, or any other “protected” classification can lead to expensive and time-consuming litigation for the employer.

The Ease with Which Wrongful Termination Lawsuits Can Arise

While an employer may believe there are strong reasons for terminating an employee, an outside observer may believe the situation is as clear-cut. For example, you may believe you are terminating a female employee for chronic absenteeism, but the employee (and others) may reasonably believe it was due to the employee’s pregnancy. Similarly, an employee may produce far fewer results than his peers, but it may appear to others that his termination is due to his age, not his productivity.

No employer can eliminate the risk of a wrongful termination lawsuit, but there are steps you can take to help minimize the likelihood of a successful wrongful termination lawsuit from disrupting your business operations:

  1. Create written policies and distribute them to your employees: Whether your business is big or small, you, your employees, and your operations can all benefit from written employee conduct and performance expectations. Once these are created, be certain to distribute them to your employees to read. Consider having your employees sign a form indicating that they have read your policy manual and understand it.
  2. Enforce your policies fairly and consistently: When you discipline one employee differently than another when both employees have violated the same policy, a court or other observer will question your true motivation for disciplining the one employee while not disciplining the other. Eliminate this potential pitfall by simply enforcing your written policies in a consistent manner.
  3. Keep records of employee disciplinary issues. It is much easier to justify terminating an employee for excessive absenteeism or poor productivity (for example) if you maintain records about prior talks or disciplinary actions you have had with the employee about their violations of company policies. These notes should be completed as soon as possible following the disciplinary talk or act and remain part of the employee’s file.

When You Are Served with a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit, Seek Help

The experienced Illinois employment law firm of Goldman & Ehrlich can help you and your business successfully navigate a wrongful termination lawsuit. Contact us as soon as possible to discuss your lawsuit by calling 312-332-6733 or by completing our firm’s online contact form.