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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.

Union Charges NIU of Failing to Negotiate in Good Faith

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1890, representing approximately 700 employees of Northern Illinois University (NIU), has filed a complaint against the university after the union and the university have failed to reach an agreement after nearly one and one-half years of negotiations. The complaint was filed with the Illinois Labor Relations Board after the university threatened to declare an impasse in its talks with the union.

What is Good Faith and an Impasse in Collective Bargaining?

When an employer and a union representing employees of the employer are engaged in negotiations concerning the terms and provisions of new a new employment agreement, both parties are expected to engage in these negotiations in “good faith.” This requires each party to be reasonable in the terms they are requesting the other party to accept and not to be belligerent and/or unnecessarily stubborn in their views. A party may be found to not be engaging in “good faith” in contract negotiations if, for example:

  • One party proposes contract terms that are objectively unreasonable or that are impossible for the other party to reasonably comply with;
  • One party fails to show up for negotiations or leaves negotiation sessions after a brief period of time;
  • One party insists that all of their demands are met as requested and refuses to consider alternative concessions and/or the requests and demands of the other party; and/or
  • Declaring an impasse in negotiations when too little time for meaningful negotiations has elapsed.

If one party believes that further negotiations are likely to be futile and fail to produce any beneficial results, an impasse may be declared. At that point, the employees (through the union) will need to decide whether to accept the employer’s “best offer” for a contract or to go on strike.

Wrongfully Declaring an Impasse

As noted above, declaring an impasse without allowing a sufficient amount of time for negotiations to take place and/or without honestly attempting to reach an agreement with the other side in the collective bargaining process is not to be encouraged. If the Illinois Labor Relations Board believes that NIU is prematurely declaring an impasse or otherwise acting in good faith, NIU may find itself facing significant sanctions and consequences.

Experienced and Professional Assistance for Illinois and Southwestern Michigan Employees

The law firm of Goldman & Ehrlich is committed to helping employees in Illinois and in Southwestern Michigan protect their legal rights at critical junctures in their employment. By contacting us as soon as possible after you believe your employer may have broken the law, unfairly discriminated against you, or otherwise failed to treat you in a professional manner during the hiring process or in disciplining or terminating you, we may be able to assist you in obtaining the legal relief and remedies available to you under the law. Call Goldman & Ehrlich today at 312-332-6733, or reach out to us using our online contact form.

 

 

Wrongful Termination of Illinois Government Employees

Illinois may be an at-will employment state, but employees of local and state government agencies enjoy greater protections against termination than do private sector employees. Specifically, where public employees have a reasonable property interest in their jobs and a reasonable expectation that their job would continue, the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the government employer from arbitrarily dismissing the employee from service without affording the employee due process. (Note that private employers do not have this obligation as the Fourteenth Amendment applies only to the actions of government, not private entities.). In addition, some government entities give the employee a right to a hearing before a civil service commission or personnel board where the employer has to prove just cause.

Reasonable Expectation of Continued Employment

If public employees have a reasonable expectation that their employment would continue absent some misconduct, then a public employer may be guilty of wrongfully terminating the employee unless the employer gives the employee a reason or cause for the termination and an opportunity for the employee to present his or her side of the story. A variety of employer conduct can cause this reasonable expectation of employment to arise: An employee handbook that specifically states that an employee cannot be terminated absent “cause” or an employer’s practice of constantly renewing a public employee’s contract are just a few of the situations under which a court might find a public employee has a legitimate expectation that he or she would not be terminated without cause.

What Constitutes “Cause” Sufficient to Terminate a Public Employee?

When terminating a public employee for “cause,” typically any misconduct, criminal act, or violation of an employee handbook or workplace policy would be sufficient “cause.” An employee who was consistently tardy or regularly absent without excuse from the workplace or one who deliberately discriminated against a customer (for example) could be terminated based upon those actions. Similarly, an employee who assaulted another employee or a customer could certainly find his or her employment terminated. An employee may also be terminated for persistent performance problems.

Due Process in the Termination Process

If a public employee has a legitimate expectation in continued employment and he or she is being terminated “for cause,” that employee may have an additional expectation to a disciplinary hearing or other similar session in which the employee can hear the accusations against him or her and has an opportunity to present his or her side of the story. Even if the employer possesses sufficient “cause” to terminate, terminating a public employee without providing due process may nonetheless render the termination wrongful.

Contact Your Illinois Employment Law Firm Today

Because of the many opportunities for costly missteps to occur in the termination of a public employee, if you or a loved one were employed by a local or state government agency and you were terminated from your employment, your termination may have been wrongful. Reach out to the employment law firm of Goldman & Ehrlich. We serve individuals in Illinois and Southwestern Michigan who have been terminated by their employers and help them assert their legal rights. Call us at 312-332-6733 or contact us online to schedule your consultation with us right away.

Is Illinois an “At-Will” Employment State?

While most employees may enjoy long careers with an employer, it is important to recognize that this is not always the case for those working in an “at-will” employment state. This is because in an “at-will” state the employer may terminate an employee at any time and for (almost) any reason. This holds true for employees as well: employees in an “at-will” state may terminate their employment at any time and for any reason. Moreover, in an “at-will” employment state there is no requirement that either the employer or the employee provide any advance warning or notification to the other before the employment relationship is terminated. Finally, in an “at-will” state neither the employer nor the employee need to give a reason for terminating the employment relationship.

Illinois is At-Will, But That Doesn’t Mean You Can Be Fired for Any Reason

Illinois (like the vast majority of other states) is considered to be an “at-will” employment state. However, just because employment in Chicago and throughout Illinois is “at-will” does not mean that employers can terminate employees for reasons which may be illegal or in violation of a contract. For example, “at-will” employment may not apply in situations in which the employee has a signed employment contract that specifies the employee can only be terminated for “cause” or for specific disciplinary violations, or states that the employee will work for a specified term of employment. In addition, the employer may not use the principle of “at-will” employment to terminate an employee based upon that employee’s sex, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or any other protected classifications.

How Do I Know if I Have Been Wrongfully Terminated?

It may be difficult for you to know if you have a claim for wrongful termination and you may not know what evidence you will need to prove that you were terminated in violation of your contract or in violation of the law. Moreover, the employer might have evidence suggesting that you were not discharged in violation of your contract or for an unlawful and discriminatory reason, such as evidence of poor performance.

In meeting with your Chicago wrongful termination attorney, it will be helpful for your potential case if you can document and recall incidents and circumstances occurring immediately prior to and what lead up to your termination. Did your employer:

  • Engage in other discriminatory or harassing acts?
  • Make any comments to you about your job performance (positive or negative)?
  • Attempt to isolate you from the rest of your team?
  • Appear to discuss your work performance or presence at the work site with others who would not usually be privy to such information?
  • Treat those outside your protected classification more favorably in a similar situation?
  • Mistreat other employees from your same protected classification?

The presence of these and other factors may suggest that your employer wrongfully terminated you and can provide your attorney with a starting point for evaluating your case and investigating the alleged reasons for your termination.

Contact an Illinois Wrongful Termination Lawyer Right Away

If you believe you have been unlawfully and wrongfully terminated from your employment in Illinois or Southwestern Michigan, call Goldman & Ehrlich today at 312-332-6733 to schedule your confidential initial consultation. You can also contact us through our website.

What are Protected Concerted Activities?

Employees have a legal right to fight for better working conditions. Indeed, that was the primary reason that unions were initially formed. Of course, you do not need to be a member of a union to have a right to make efforts to improve the conditions at your workplace. The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 gives all employees the rights to engage in ‘concerted activities’. Here, the experienced Chicago employment law attorneys at Goldman & Ehrlich discuss what concerted activities mean in the modern world.

 

Five Examples of Concerted Activities:

 

  1. Attempting to start a union

 Employees have a legal right to attempt to form a union or to support general union activities in their workplace. An employer cannot in anyway threaten you or your job for your attempt to participate in labor organizing efforts.

 

  1. Circulating a petition for better workplace conditions

Beyond any type of unionization, employees also have a right to circulate petitions to their co-workers and discuss their overall working conditions. Employers cannot discipline an employee as a ‘troublemaker’ simply because they have complaints regarding their hours, their pay or their overall working conditions.

 

  1. Refusing to work in unsafe conditions

 All employees have a right to refuse to work in dangerous or unsafe conditions provided that the condition would be considered unsafe by a reasonable person. If an employer attempts to force workers to put their health and safety at an unreasonable risk, legal action can and should be taken.

 

  1. Talking to government officials about workplace concerns

Workers can bring their complaints to local, state and federal government officials. The right to petition the government regarding workplace conditions can never be abridged by employers. Employers are forbidden from trying to control the political actions of workers.

 

  1. Talking to the media about workplace concerns

Workers also have a right to bring their complaints to the media, including making posts on social media. For example, if an employee makes a Facebook post complaining about unfair wages and benefits, their employer cannot take adverse action against them on the grounds that they are bad-mouthing the company. Employees have a right to make their voice heard on that issue.

 

The Bargain Employers and Employees Share

The NLRA puts legal obligations on both employers and employees. While employers cannot take any adverse action against workers on the grounds that they engaged in a protected concerted activity, employees cannot lie about their company. If a worker says something that is egregiously offensive, maliciously false or simply down talks their company on grounds that have nothing to do with labor rights, then that worker will lose their legal protections.

 

Contact Our Team Today

 

At Goldman & Ehrlich, our dedicated employment law attorneys have deep experience and a dual perspective. By representing both employers and employees, we have a full view of all the legal challenges you will face. For help with your case, please call us today at 312-332-6733. From our office in Chicago, we represent clients throughout Northern Illinois, including in Lake County and Dupage County.