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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Attorney Advertising. This website is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. [ Site Map ]