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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.

Workplace Harassment Claims: Lack of Intent is No Excuse

Employees have a legal right to work in conditions that are free from any harassment that is motivated by illegal reasons such as race or gender. Whether it is sexual harassment, verbal abuse on racial or some form of physical bullying, the harassment needs to stop now.

Harassment is not always a clear cut issue to all parties involved. The harassers often claim that they did nothing wrong. Indeed, many employees report being subject to unlawful harassment in the form of jokes. Their bosses or coworkers tell them to “lighten up” and that they “were just kidding around”. This is no excuse.

If you were a victim of workplace harassment on the grounds of a protected status, you have legal options available. It does not matter if it was only a joke. Impact matters, not intent. To speak to an experienced Chicago workplace harassment attorney about your case, please contact Goldman & Ehrlich today.

 

Employee Rights: Protected Statuses

It must be made clear that unlawful harassment is distinct from mean comments or generally unpleasant behavior. State and federal labor laws do not seek to regulate kindness in the workplace. Instead, for conduct to qualify as unlawful harassment, it must implicate one of the employee’s legally protected statuses. If the offensive behavior in your case addresses any of the following, either directly or indirectly, you may have a valid hostile work environment claim:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Citizenship status
  • Gender
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Age
  • Pregnancy status
  • Veteran status
  • Marital status

 

Impact Matters, Not Intent  

Malicious intent is not the key issue in hostile work environment claims. What might be a good-hearted, funny joke to the perpetrator might be downright hurtful to others. The impact on the victimized employee is what matters, not the intent of the alleged harassers. Notably, important employee rights legislation such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires that conduct be ‘severe or pervasive’ before it becomes unlawful harassment. If joking behavior is especially offensive, or if it continues without the employer putting a stop to it, then the victimized employee would have a viable legal claim.

Get Employment Law Assistance Today

At Goldman & Ehrlich, our Chicago employment discrimination attorneys have extensive experience handling all types of workplace harassment claims. For immediate assistance with your case, please us today at 312-332-6733 to set up your confidential case evaluation. We represent workers throughout the region, including in Rockford, Joliet and Naperville.

Call Today: 312-332-6733

Temporal Proximity and Retaliation Claims

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prohibits employers from taking retaliatory action against employees for exercising their legal rights when making complaints about illegal actions. For example, if an employee complains about sexual harassment or race discrimination in the workplace to their supervisor, the employer may not retaliate or take any adverse action to punish the employee for making the complaint.

Of course, most employers are aware of the general rules that prohibited retaliation. As such, bad acting employers rarely admit to retaliation. Instead, they make up a pretextual reason to take action against the employee. This can make retaliation claims challenging. Here, our experienced Chicago workplace retaliation lawyers discuss temporal proximity, a concept that can be used to help link an adverse action to a protected activity.

 

What is Temporal Proximity?

The legal term ‘temporal proximity’ simply refers to the closeness in time of two events. This concept can be very important in many retaliation claims, as employers will frequently attempt to cover their tracks by trying to disguise their retaliation as legitimate discipline, or claim the employee had poor performance. For a better understanding of how it works, consider the following example: On July 1st, a female employee at a Chicago company files a sexual harassment claim against her boss. Notably, she has worked at this firm for more than ten years without problems. On July 21st, she is fired from the company for “poor performance”. Certainly, poor performance is a valid reason to terminate a worker, if true. However, as these two events are very close in time, there is strong implication that the termination was based on her complaint of harassment.

 

Temporal Proximity is Rarely Dispositive

 In the vast majority of cases, temporal proximity is simply one piece (albeit an important piece) of the larger puzzle. It typically must be put together with additional evidence. But the closer the employee’s protected activity is to the adverse action, the more likely the court will find that termination was based on the protected complaint, and that the claims of performance were only a pretext made up by the employer. If you believe your employer made up a pretextual reason to take adverse action against you, you need to speak to an experienced attorney immediately.

 

Contact Our Office Today 

At Goldman & Ehrlich, our Chicago employee rights attorneys have extensive experience handling retaliation claims in both Illinois and Southwestern Michigan. If you need help with your retaliation claim, please call us today at 312-332-6733 or contact us directly through our website to request your fully confidential initial legal consultation.

312-332-6733

How Telecommuting Affects Employment Law

Telecommuting increased close to 80 percent just between 2005 and 2012, and an estimated 30 million people now report working from home at least once per week. App Developer Magazine featured an interesting article recently on how dynamics in the workplace are changing as more and more people are telecommuting, and how this changes employment law as it relates to employer-employee relationships and established legal policies.

In fact, there are legal benefits to having some salaried employees telecommuting instead of working out of the office, however, it’s also important to realize that allowing for telecommuting does change certain legal policies for employers.

Security Issues

As more and more employees are working remotely, in all likelihood, many of them are going to be accessing work networks from their home computers. It is very important that if a telecommuting employee does access the network remotely that there is an established security system protecting the company’s files and sensitive information, including the appropriate passwords, encryption, and network firewalls. As of 2014, the average cost of a data breach reached close to $6 million.

Confidentiality

It is also important that all telecommuting employees have signed a confidentiality and/or non-disclosure agreement in order to ensure that the company’s privacy has been maintained and that, if not, there is a legal recourse to bring an action against the employee and any other offending parties. In addition, many companies ensure that they establish network access for the telecommuting employee, but do not ensure that, in turn, they can retrieve files from the telecommuting employee in case anything should happen. Make sure that you are able to do this; an easy way might be to have a policy requiring that the employee saves any and all work to the same network device (such as the company server) instead of the individual computer hard drive of the computer they are working on.

What about Non-Exempt Employees?

While most telecommuting employees are salaried and exempt from overtime (because they are not subject to overtime and thus there is less concern about reporting working hours), if you do have non-exempt employees work from home, ensure that here is a reliable way to keep track of worked hours and that you have a policy in place beforehand that restricts the number of hours they can work in general.

Liability and Workers’ Compensation

While there are always policies pertaining to injuries in the workplace, ensure that there is a similar policy for any work-related injuries for those working from home.

Discrimination

Interestingly, having employees work remotely decreases the potential for discrimination because, arguably, the employee is more likely to be judged based on work product rather than potentially discriminatory factors. However, at the same time, employers need to ensure that having an employee work remotely cannot be legally interpreted as being discriminatory in and of itself (i.e. the potential that the employer is specifically only having that employee telecommute because they do not want them in the office).

It is also important to keep in mind that there have been instances where an employee claimed that failure to allow them to telecommute at least part-time constituted failure to provide disabled accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Contact Experienced Employment Law Attorneys

Goldman & Ehrlich is known for providing excellent legal representation to Chicago-area employers. If you need assistance, contact us today online or call 312-332-6733 and we’ll get started helping you with any employment law issues.

An employee is filing a discrimination claim against her boss

As a boss, you already know the pressure and the stress of running your company. It is a daily battle to make deadlines, achieve goals, motivate employees and provide income for them to feed their families. When one of your employees files a discrimination claim against you, you must address this quickly with an employment law attorney. But there are common sense steps you can take to prevent a discrimination claim from occurring, or create proper protections for your company if a claim is filed.

Documentation

Of highest priority is making sure all employees are consistently treated the same in all actions you take (or do not take), treated consistently by their supervisors and managers as compared to other employees, and maintaining proper documentation of any performance or misconduct issue for all employees. Performance standards for employees should be applied consistently, and should discipline be necessary, apply discipline consistently for each employee engaging in similar acts. Should a discrimination complaint be made by an employee, take the employee’s complaint seriously and investigate it properly to determine what if anything has occurred. Employees are more likely to file a discrimination complaint if they feel their concerns were not taken seriously and properly addressed. Contact an employment law attorney as soon as possible. Good communication among all parties, supervisors, managers, and your employment law attorney, and proper and accurate documentation may help to resolve a matter before it becomes a legal action and leave you in a better position should a lawsuit be filed.

Insurance

There is insurance available for companies to protect against employment harassment and discrimination lawsuits. Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) is a specific type of liability insurance that is targeted to companies and employers so that they can have protection against liability cases that arises out of standard employment practices. While the cost may seem extensive to protect for “what if” scenarios, peace of mind for the future may be just what you need.

Claims

There is more than one way for an employee to make a discrimination claim against her employer. It is important to know how these claims can be made so you know best how to protect yourself from them.

  • An employee may make a claim to someone employed by the business.
  • The employee might choose to make a claim directly to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
  • Either or both of these methods.

 Chicago Employment Attorneys

When an employee files a discrimination claim against their boss, it is time for an experienced corporate defense attorney to be fighting your side. Contact our law firm today at 312-332-6733 or connect with Goldman & Ehrlich online.

Do I have to sign an employer’s non-compete clause?

Perhaps you are working for a Mobile Phone Service and before hiring you, they ask you to sign a non-compete clause on your hiring contract. This may seem strange though it isn’t uncommon. However, there are some critical things to note about non-compete agreements, in particular for those living in the state of Illinois that is unique compared to most other states.

What is a non-compete agreement?

This agreement is a contract stating that you will not begin work as a competing business nor work for a competitor for a particular period of time, often stated in the agreement, after your relationship with your employer finishes or ends. The reason behind this, is to ensure that you won’t share intimate knowledge of how their business works to competitors or be in a position to steal away clients, other workers, and customers by exploiting the knowledge you received during employment with them.

Rule of Reasonableness Test

The Illinois Supreme court, in the 2011 decision Reliable Fire Equip. Co. v. Arredondo, established what it called a “rule of reasonableness test” to determine the enforceability of a restrictive covenant, with the Court providing that a restraint on trade is reasonable only if it:

  1. is no greater than is required to protect a legitimate business interest of the employer;
  2. does not impose undue hardship on the employee; and
  3. is not injurious to the public.

Your Chicago Business and Employment Lawyers

Create legal policies and contracts of integrity for your employees that protect your business’s’ interests by following federal and state employment laws. Avoid mistakes that could put you at risk, and better serve your business and your employees. Contact Goldman & Ehrlich, today at 312-332-6733, or contact us online to schedule a confidential consultation.

Common Issues with Employment Contracts

When joining a new company, employees often have the power to negotiate over their contract to produce an agreement more favorable to their economic interests, and one that is fair to both sides. Employees may be in a particularly good bargaining position if they are experts or highly skilled in a particular employment field.

While navigating through the various clauses of an employment contract, prospective workers should take note of some of the most common issues with these agreements as they can have long term repercussions on the candidates’ earnings and prospects for advancement. As with most contracts, speaking to an experienced Chicago area employment contract attorney about the situation can greatly benefit the employee.

Compensation

How much one gets paid is almost always the most pressing matter for the individual. However, there are many nuances to compensation, including:

  • Frequency of pay increases;
  • Possibility of signing bonuses for coming aboard a new company;
  • If bonuses will be available; and
  • If a base salary before bonus and commission can be reduced in certain circumstances.

Benefits

Employers often attempt to sweeten an employment offer with benefits. In circumstances where employees are not offered the rate of compensation they expect, they may be able to bargain for certain benefits like:

  • Medical insurance;
  • Disability coverage;
  • Life insurance;
  • Pensions; and/or
  • Stock options.

Scope of employment

The scope of one’s employment can include much more than simply a job title and responsibilities. Included in the scope of employment portion of an employment contract the employer may be able to designate:

  • The place of employment and whether the employee can be relocated;
  • If the employee can be demoted or have their responsibilities reduced or modified; and
  • If the employee will have influence over other facets of the company’s operations.

Grounds for termination and length of contract

How long a contract lasts and under what circumstances it may be prematurely terminated is among the most important of considerations. Employees should take the time to understand whether they are under “at will” employment or if they can only be terminated “with cause” for actions like:

  • Breach of contract;
  • Criminal charges; or
  • Refusal to perform reasonable duties.

Also, the contract may include arbitration and dispute resolution clauses for employee grievances.

Chicago area employment contract attorneys

Before you sign an employment contract, contact the Chicago area employment contract attorneys of Goldman & Ehrlich for a consultation. Our office has years of experience serving clients throughout Cook County, Lake County, DuPage County, Will County, Kane County, and McHenry County.