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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Goldman & Ehrlich is located in Chicago, IL and serves clients in and around Chicago, Cook County, Lake County, DuPage County, Will County, Kane County, and McHenry County.
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