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Wrongful Termination Due to Caring for a Sick Spouse

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Wrongful Termination Due to Caring for a Sick Spouse

Chances are, many of us will have some sort of serious medical condition at some point in our lives. After all, one in four Americans visits an emergency room each year, according to Gallup. While getting a few stitches for slicing a finger while cutting an avocado or bagel is not a serious medical condition, there are many other instances that are, and many people experience these conditions, which include:


  • Heart attack;
  • Stroke;
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI);
  • Cancer;
  • Multiple broken bones;
  • Organ failure; and
  • Hundreds of other types of diseases and injuries.


When your family member gets injured or becomes ill, they may require a period of home care. Because the average person cannot afford an in-home nurse, family members take on this role. And, when an employer fires such a family member for taking time off work to care for their loved one, they may have violated an employment law such as the Family Medical Leave Act, and must be held accountable.


Family Medical Leave Act


The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) prohibits employers from firing or retaliating against employees who leave work for up to 12 weeks in order to care for a loved one having a serious health condition. A family member is considered to be a parent, spouse, or child. During these 12 weeks, the employee is entitled to unpaid time off as well as staying on their group health insurance. When they return to work, they are entitled to the same wages and position that they left. These same benefits are provided to the employee themselves if they suffer an injury or illness, as well as if they are a mother or father caring for a newborn child or newly adopted child during the child’s placement (within one year) with the family.


Eligibility of FMLA Employees


Unfortunately, not all employees are eligible for FMLA rights. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only employees who meet the following criteria are eligible for 12 weeks of job and health insurance protected unpaid leave:


  • Have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in previous 12 months (a different set of criteria applies to airline flight crews);
  • Employer has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius; and
  • Have worked for employer at least 12 months, though the time does not need to be consecutive;

A Chicago Attorney is Here to Help


You may have a valid wrongful termination claim against your employer if they have violated the Family Medical Leave Act. To find out more, you need to call an experienced Chicago employment lawyer at Goldman & Ehrlich as soon as possible.

What is a Reasonable Accommodation?

America has long prided itself on diversity, freedom of religion, and equality. However, our country is still fighting its roots of slavery, Native American eradication, and subjugation of women. America’s past continues to haunt us to this day, particularly in respect to the workplace. Workplace discrimination occurs in many forms, such as refusing to hire a certain individual because of their race, not promoting an employee because of their gender, and making fun of an employee because of his or her disability or religion. Harassment and unfavorable employment decision, such as not providing a deserved raise, affect thousands of Chicago employees on a daily basis. Another form of discrimination that many are faced with is the employer’s failure to provide a reasonable accommodation that the employee’s protected characteristics or religion may demand.

For example, a prior case ruled that a clothing chain could not bar a Muslim employee from wearing a Hijab and had to accommodate that religious practice.

Examples of Common Reasonable Accommodations


A reasonable accommodation is when an employer acknowledges the employee’s need for some adjustment to his/her job duties or a policy that the employer would ordinarily want the employee to follow, while balancing that accommodation with the employer’s legitimate business needs, which fall under their protected status. Reasonable accommodations can include something tangible such as a hand railing in the bathroom, as well as something like freedom to adjust their work schedule to meet a medical need or religious practice. For example, the following are types of reasonable accommodations.


  • Allowing a female employee who has recently given birth reasonable break time to breastfeed or express milk (other laws under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also mandate this right according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission);
  • Providing a religious employee certain days off from work in order for them to practice their religion;
  • Putting in a wheelchair ramp or widening a door frame;
  • Purchasing software for a blind employee.


Employer’s Claim of Undue Hardship


Not all requests for accommodation will be considered reasonable where the request, such as an adjustment to a work schedule/routine or purchase of an expensive device or remodel will cause the employer undue hardship. For example, an employer may make the claim that they did not hire a disabled person because the cost of training, or eliminating essential duties of that position would cause them undue hardship, according to the City of Chicago Commission on Human Relations.


Reach Out to a Chicago Workplace Discrimination Lawyer Today


Employment discrimination against those who ask for or demand a reasonable accommodation happens all the time in Chicago. To ensure that your rights as an employee or applicant are not trampled by your employer, you need to contact the Chicago employment discrimination attorneys of Goldman & Ehrlich today.




Religious Freedom Law or Free Pass to Discriminate?

Some states have adopted or contemplated adopting so-called “religious freedom” laws. These laws create a risk of allowing religious groups, or businesses, to discriminate against others when their religions call for it. For example, many Christian groups look down upon the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual (LGBT) community, and may refuse clientele that are gay. Even if a particular state does not have a religious freedom act, discrimination may go unpunished if cloaked behind a religious belief. For example, a few years ago a baker in Colorado refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. The couple took their case all the way to the Supreme Court, and the decision is still pending on whether there was wrongdoing, according to NBC News.


Religious Freedom Laws Can Trace Their Heritage to Jim Crow


The same logic of religious freedom laws or arguments that some business owners may use to discriminate against the LGBT community was applied to race during the early years of the civil rights movement. Laws were written in favor of the majority (whites) in order to continue their prejudices against blacks, all in the name of religious freedom. According to Judge Leon M. Bazile, “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. . . The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix (1959),” as reported by ThinkProgress.


It is Not Legal for a Religious Business Owner to Discriminate Against Employees or Applicants


Illinois has a religious freedom law, along with 20 other states, according to WQAD 8 News. These laws give business owners the right to pick and choose whom they serve to a large degree. While they do not give an employer the right to deny employment to any particular group of people, such as someone who identifies with the LGBT community, such discrimination does happen frequently.


The Employment Discrimination Attorneys of Goldman & Ehrlich are Here to Help


Whether you have faced employment discrimination based on your race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, religion, disability, or age, you need to call a lawyer now. Under no circumstances is it legal for an employer to fire, refuse to hire, harass, or otherwise mistreat an employee or job applicant because of a protected characteristic. To learn more about your legal options, call the experienced Chicago employment lawyers with Goldman & Ehrlich today for immediate assistance.