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Wrongful Termination

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Wrongful Termination

Illinois, like most states, is an employment-at-will state. That is, either the employer or the employee may terminate their employment relationship at any time, for any reason. The exceptions to employment-at-will status in Illinois include union or personal employment contracts. Therefore, breach of contract does constitute wrongful termination. However, there are other legal restrictions that involve anti-discrimination laws and violations of public policy. Continue reading to learn why employment lawyers are sometimes involved in Illinois termination cases.

Anti-Discrimination Policies

Both State and Federal laws protected certain classes against discrimination. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is mandated with stopping workplace discrimination. The EEOC’s wrongful termination laws protect against certain discrimination, such as age, national origin, pregnancy, race and gender. Therefore, any company that terminates an employee primarily based on their protected class is in violation of federal wrongful termination laws.

Consider the following scenarios. A supervisor makes numerous derogatory comments concerning an employee’s ethnic group, such as saying that people who belong to the ethnic group in question are lazy and incompetent. The supervisor later terminates an employee from the ethnic group in question for ‘poor performance.’ The terminated employee would have a possible wrongful termination case against the company. In addition to this, certain companies dislike having to accommodate pregnant employees and their need to take time off. These unscrupulous companies will often fire a pregnant employee in order to avoid the staffing troubles and associated insurance costs. In many cases, these companies will cover up the termination through citing minor performance issues, such as being occasionally late.

Public Policy

Illinois has a rather vague definition of public policy. However, the state of Illinois does include retaliatory termination as a violation of public policy. This includes terminations involving whistle blowing, accounting fraud, workers’ compensation claims and health and safety issues. For instance, under Illinois state law, companies cannot terminate an employee for alerting OSHA concerning serious health and safety issues at the work site. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in 1978 in Kelsay v. Motorola that employers cannot terminate a worker who is attempting to cover their workers’ compensation benefits.

In addition to this, there are other applicable wrongful termination laws. The federal USERRA law of 1994 guarantees military members the right to be absent from work for up to five years. FMLA guarantees eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid every year to attend to personal and family medical needs. Finally, any employee who is terminated for refusing to engage in criminal activities is protected by state and federal law.

To sum up, most terminations are based on the standard employment-at-will clause. However, there are certain situations that may be considered wrongful termination. Anyone who has experienced a wrongful termination should consult with a knowledgeable employment lawyer. They will be able to apply that knowledge of the court system and legal regulations in order to protect your rights.

Workplace Discrimination In Illinois

Federal law makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against a protected class. Protected classes include race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, and citizenship. In Illinois, the law includes additional protected classes such as mental or perceived handicap, sexual orientation, and military status.

To file a discrimination claim under Illinois law, the claim can be filed with the state agency or the federal agency. The Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have a cooperative relationship allowing aggrieved parties to a file a claim with either agency. For all employment discrimination claims other than sexual harassment based claims, the employer must have more than 15 employees for the aggrieved party to file a discrimination claim.

In order to bring a valid employment discrimination case, the plaintiff must make a showing that 1) he is a member of a protected class, 2) he was qualified for the job and was performing the job satisfactorily, 3) he was fired by the employer, and 4) he was replaced by someone not in the protected class.

Federal law prevents an employer from engaging in discrimination retaliation after an employee has made a good faith claim of discrimination. Not everything an employer does it considered retaliation. Only when an employer changes his conduct towards you and that has an adverse effect on your employment is it considered discriminating retaliation. The most obvious case of retaliation is if you make a complaint, and you are immediately fired or demoted. Usually, however, an employer retaliation is not this clear cut.

Many cases are settled at the administrative level. But sometimes, it is not possible for the parties to reach a mutual agreement. If the case cannot be resolved by the federal or state administrative bodies, it will be necessary to pursue your claim in court. A plaintiff must exhaust all administrative remedies before seeking the involvement of the court. Under Illinois law, there is no private cause of action for employment discrimination, which means that discrimination lawsuits cannot be filed in Illinois state court.

If you chose to pursue the lawsuit after administrative remedies have been exhausted, this is the time to seek the help of an experienced employment lawyer who is familiar with Illinois and Chicago employment law.

Executive Employment Agreement and Compensation Package

Overview

Executive compensation packages are a hot topic of discussion in the world of business today. There are many different aspects to take into account when designing a compensation package for executives. From the perspective of the company, it is important to protect against any litigation in case the working relationship turns bad. Here are several things to keep in mind when designing an executive compensation package for employees.

Bonuses

Bonuses are a great incentive for employees to go the extra mile with their work. There are many companies that offer bonuses that are equivalent to ten or twenty thousand dollars a year. Any company that offers incentive bonuses based on performance needs to make sure that they cover every angle when describing what must take place to earn a bonus. If this does not occur, a company can open themselves up for litigation in the event that the bonus is not paid out like the employee expects.

Non Compete

A non compete agreement is a common clause in many contracts. This basically is a period of time when an employee cannot leave the company to go work for a competitor. Although it sounds very restrictive, it is common in almost every business industry. Many companies share business secrets and strategy with employees, and this makes it dangerous to a company if an employee goes to work for a competitor. There have been many lawsuits in the business world over past employees sharing confidential information. Be sure to be very specific about any non compete agreements in the employee contract.

Vacation Time

One of the best ways to sweeten an employee contract deal is to add more vacation time to the compensation package. Many high ranking employees with expect to have at least three to four weeks of vacation time when they sign on. There are even some companies that are moving towards a business model where employees are free to take vacation days whenever they want. It is important to be specific about the expectations of employees concerning their vacation time. Some companies expect that employees will continue to work remotely even after they are on vacation.

Final Thoughts

Overall, compensation packages are an important part of running a successful business. A company should have specific information that protects them from any litigation when it comes to their compensation packages. This can help to prevent a lot of issues down the road from upset employees. Contact Goldman & Ehrlich today to learn more.