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Evidentiary Standards in Employment Discrimination Cases Addressed in Seventh Circuit Case

The 7th U.S Court of Appeals recently addressed an important issue – the standard for acceptable evidence in an employment discrimination case. The 7th Circuit’s decision was issued in Ortiz v. Werner Enterprises, No. 15-2574 (Aug. 19, 2016). In Ortiz, the plaintiff was a freight broker employed by Werner Enterprises. His employment was terminated in 2012 due to an allegation that he falsified business records. The plaintiff asserted that he did not engage in this conduct and actually corrected records. The plaintiff went on to claim that he was fired due to his Mexican heritage. The plaintiff cited multiple incidents where his supervisors used racial slurs to describe him to colleagues.

 

Evidentiary Standard Used by the Trial Court

 

The trial court judge, in assessing whether or not the plaintiff was subjected to discrimination, utilized both the direct method and indirect method when analyzing the evidence.

 

In employment discrimination cases, a judge could use the direct method, which requires evidence of obvious discrimination. For example, when the manager makes clear racist comments about the employee before terminating him. In contrast, the indirect method relies on circumstantial evidence such as terminating a Hispanic employee while only issuing a verbal warning to a Caucasian employee for the same conduct, or other questionable circumstances that create an inference of discrimination.

 

Seventh Circuit Emphasizes Objective Standard

 

On appeal, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with the trial court’s reliance on either a direct or indirect method or any specific formula as a standard for acceptable evidence. The 7th Circuit recommended that the lower court use an objective standard of evidence established in a myriad of other relevant court decisions. This objective standard focuses on whether a reasonable juror could conclude that an individual would have retained their employment if they had a different ethnic background and all other evidence remained unchanged. This standard would consider any relevant evidence to make this determination. The lower court in Ortiz did not use this objective standard. Therefore. the 7th Circuit sent the case back for further review.

 

Chicago Employment Lawyer Ready to Help

 

As you can see, litigating an employment discrimination case can get complicated with an array of different evidentiary standards that may come into play. If you or a family member suspect you were discriminated against in the workplace, take action and contact the experienced Chicago employment lawyer with Goldman & Ehrlich right away. We are here to help answer questions and address your concerns. We understand the complex array of employment laws and regulations in Chicago and want to put that knowledge and experience to work for you.

 

Overview of the Mediation Process in a Chicago Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Reports of sexual harassment in the workplace are making national headlines on a daily basis. From Harvey Weinstein to Matt Lauer, it is apparent that female employees are being subjected to extremely disturbing behavior and sexual advances by supervisors.

 

If you find yourself in a situation where a supervisor is making unwanted advances or displaying sexually aggressive behavior, there are important steps you can take to protect your legal rights and hold the employer accountable.

 

One of the first steps is to file a sexual harassment claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). Once you file the claim, an EEOC investigator will examine the claim and work to reach a resolution. If the EEOC for IDHR inds that sexual harassment took place, it could attempt to resolve the claim via settlement. For example, they may recommend mediation between you and your employer. These Agencies may also suggest that the parties engage in mediation before the investigation begins.

 

What Exactly is Mediation?

 

Mediation is categorized as an alternative dispute resolution with the objective of creating an environment where the two parties involved in a dispute work with or through a mediator to achieve an objective. The mediator works with both you and your employer as an unbiased third party to allow both parties to negotiate a resolution.

 

The Details of Your Claim Remain Private in Mediation

 

A potential advantage of working towards a resolution through mediation is the fact that you retain a level of privacy that is unavailable if you file a lawsuit in state or federal court. This is because court-filed records are public information. In mediation, you have the ability to keep the details of your claim private and between the parties yourself, including details concerning any settlement. It can also be a relatively quicker and less expensive way of resolving your claim.

 

Mediation Requires Collaboration

 

It is important to understand the objective of mediation – to achieve a resolution. This means you should not go into the mediation looking to settle a score or have your claim validated. You should be looking for a reasonable middle ground where you are properly compensated and can move on with your life.

 

Potential Compensation You Can Obtain Through Mediation

 

There are no restrictions to what might be obtained in mediation, but both parties must agree to the settlement terms. Some of the forms of compensation and relief that are typically discussed in mediation include the following:

 

  • Financial restitution;
  • The employee or employer who harassed you is relocated or transferred;
  • Assistance with finding you new employment or allowing you to transfer to a different location, if you prefer; and/or

 

Chicago Employment Lawyer Here to Help

 

It is usually advisable to have an employment law attorney represent you in mediation who can maximize your chances of getting the best and most realistic result. If you were subjected to workplace sexual harassment, you have legal rights and can pursue a claim against your employer. To learn more about your legal rights, contact the experienced and skilled Chicago workplace harassment lawyers of Goldman & Ehrlich right away. We are here to help answer questions and address your concerns.

Overview of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act

Recent surveys by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that more than 20 percent of workers in the United States are 55 years of age or older and a disturbingly high percentage of those employees have experienced age discrimination. In fact, a survey revealed that approximately 64 percent of older workers confirmed that they experienced age discrimination in the workplace. In 2014, approximately 21,396 age discrimination claims were filed with federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to AARP.

Due to the prevalence of age discrimination, Congress enacted the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) in 1967. Under the ADEA, an employer may not discriminate against an employee or job applicant based on their age when the employee or applicant is 40 years of age or older. This means age cannot be a factor when considering promotions, bonuses, hiring, or termination.

Employers Covered by the ADEA

Only specific employers are required to adhere to the regulations set forth under the ADEA. For example, the employer must have at least 20 employees that engage in interstate commerce and who have worked for the company for at least 20 months. Other employers who must comply with the ADEA include federal and state agencies.  State laws, however, also apply to employers who employ at least 15 employees.

Keep in mind, employers may discipline or terminate an employee who has performance issues.  You cannot excuse your performance due to your age.  Nevertheless, the employer may cloak the discrimination on alleged performance issues that are unfounded or which are tolerated when it is a younger employee who has a similar performance issue.

Another example is when a company requires employees to lift heavy materials such as boxes (e.g. Amazon, FedEx, etc.). In this situation, an employer may discriminate against an older job applicant or employee if they are physically incapable of completing the assigned job duties.

Also, if you are under the age of 40, you do not have any protection under the ADEA. This means if an employer does not hire you because “you are too young,” you cannot file a claim under the ADEA, according to NBC Chicago.

Speak to a Chicago Age Discrimination Lawyer Today

If you were terminated from your job and you suspect it was due to your age, it is important to schedule a meeting with an attorney to discuss your legal options. The experienced Chicago age discrimination lawyers with Goldman & Ehrlich are here to help.

Employee Who Sued Kane County for Wrongful Termination Secures Large Settlement

A former sheriff’s deputy did not take his termination lying down. He stood up and took action by filing a complaint in the United States District Court of Northern Illinois. The sheriff’s deputy alleged that he was fired due to his political leanings and the concern by his supervisor that he would run against him for the position of Sheriff.

In the complaint, the employee asked that the court issue an injunction and order his reinstatement to his prior position along with all wages and benefits. His claim for damages exceeded $1,000,000 since he was seeking reimbursement of wages dating back to 2008, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Reports indicate that this legal battle was rooted in a contentious relationship between the sheriff’s deputy and Kane County Sheriff. The two individuals disagreed over the sheriff’s deputy working in two public positions simultaneously – as a sheriff’s deputy in Kane County and as police chief in Maple Park.

The Sheriff reportedly reached out to members of the Maple Park Village Board and lobbied for the Board not to maintain its relationship with the sheriff’s deputy/police chief (who obtained permission from his supervisors to hold both positions years ago).

Squashing a Political Opponent

The lawsuit also revealed the fact that the Sheriff’s deputy was seriously contemplating running for Kane County Sheriff. The Sheriff’s deputy retained the services of a campaign manager and was raising money to mount a run. In the complaint, the Sheriff’s deputy alleged that there were an array of “fictitious complaints” made against him. The complaint also alleged that the Kane County Sheriff said that he was going to fire the Sheriff’s deputy because he was going to run against him one day.

Settlement Reached

The Kane County Board agreed to pay the sheriff’s deputy approximately $650,000 in an agreed-upon settlement. The settlement was reached in exchange for the sheriff’s deputy to agree to a release of all known and unknown claims against the county.

Termination for Political Speech or Views

If you work in the private sector, anti-retaliation laws generally do not protect you if you publicly express your political views or affiliations. However, if you work for a state or local government entity, you may be able to file a claim to seek financial restitution and other damages associated with any politically actions taken against you.

Speak to a Chicago Wrongful Termination Lawyer Today

If you suspect you were terminated due to your political views or affiliations, contact Goldman & Ehrlich today. Our law firm represents individuals and businesses in wrongful termination lawsuits.

Avoiding a Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit: Employer Responsibilities

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.

Temporary Disability

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.

Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyers in Chicago, IL

For more information about protecting your company from workplace discrimination lawsuits, contact the employment law attorneys at Goldman & Ehrlich.

 

Wrongful Termination in an At-Will Employment State

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.

Retaliation

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.

Proving Workplace Discrimination Based on Race, Ethnicity, or National Origin

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
  • harassment

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.

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.