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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.

Wrongful Termination of Pregnant Employees  

Being pregnant should be a time of joy, anticipation, and excitement, not of frustration and despair. Unfortunately for some mothers, they experience the latter due to an employer who refuses to keep them on the payroll simply because they are pregnant, are expecting to become pregnant, or have given birth to a child. If you have been wrongfully terminated, a Chicago employment attorney can help.


Pregnant Employee and Applicant Rights in Illinois


Under Illinois Public Act 98-1050, it is unlawful for an employer to act in any of the following ways when the action is based on an employee’s or applicant’s pregnancy status:


  • Refuse to hire or promote;
  • Discipline, discharge, demote, or reduce pay;
  • Refuse to reinstate an employee at their former position and pay after they have taken time off from pregnancy;
  • Retaliate or harass in any way;
  • Refuse reasonable accommodations for the pregnant employee, such as a safe place to express milk, unless those accommodations would cause undue hardship for the employer;
  • Require the employee to accept accommodations that they do not wish for; and
  • Fail to post or keep employees informed of these rights.


Reasonable Accommodations


If a pregnant employee asks for a reasonable accommodation to be made, such as being allowed to take longer bathroom breaks or be moved to light duty, it is the burden of the employer to deliver these accommodations unless the employer can prove that it would cause them undue hardship, such as exorbitant costs. However, instead of making accommodations, some employers turn around and fire the employee for simply asking. If this has happened to you, your employer has violated state and federal laws.


Family and Medical Leave Act


Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, employees who have given birth to children (fathers are included too) are allowed at least 12 weeks of unpaid time off work to care for their child or recently adopted child. The time frame that a parent can use these 12 weeks is within one year of the child’s birth or adoption. During this time, the employee is allowed to stay on their group healthcare as well. Employers must allow the employee to return to their position at their original pay and status after these 12 weeks.


Contact a Chicago Employment Lawyer Today


Some employers view pregnancy as an expense that they have to bear due to loss of productivity, and fire employees for becoming pregnant or taking time off after they give birth. In both of these situations, the employer has acted unlawfully, and needs to be held accountable by a wrongful termination lawsuit. Call the wrongful termination attorneys at the Chicago law offices of Goldman & Ehrlich today for assistance.


Workplace Harassment of Muslims on the Rise  

Hate crimes against Muslims have never been higher in the U.S. than now. Even in 2001 after the September 11th attack on the Twin Towers, hate crimes against Muslims were fewer, according to the Pew Research Center. Hate crimes are not always easy to prove, and only a fraction of hate crimes are even treated or reported as such. Under the Trump Administration, hate crimes and discrimination against Muslims will undoubtedly continue to rise, as the preliminary numbers for 2017 in many areas show. One of the most devastating ways in which Muslims are discriminated against is in the workplace. Illinois and federal laws protect people of all races and religions from harassment and other forms of discrimination at work, but the first step is up to you. Contact a Chicago employment attorney at the first sign of discrimination.

Unlawful Acts


The Illinois Human Rights Act, along with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), prohibit an employer from retaliating or discriminating against employees of any type of religion or faith, or lack of a religion. The nationalistic attack on Muslims that Donald Trump and others have embraced and emboldened has caused serious harm to Muslim families throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. Examples of discriminating against a Muslim employee, or a person that an employer believes to be Muslim, include the following:


  • Refusal to hire;
  • Refusal to promote;
  • Denying promotions and equal pay;
  • Not allowing traditional clothing, such as hijabs. The EEOC also grants clothing freedom to other religions, such as the Sikh turban, the Christian cross, and the right for female employees to not wear pants or shirt skirts (Muslim, Pentecostal Christian, and Orthodox Jewish);
  • Enforcing grooming practices that go against Islam, such as requiring beards to be shaved. Again, the EEOC grants similar rights to other religious groups, such as allowing Rastafarian dreadlocks and Sikh uncut beards and hair; and
  • Much more, such as harassment, allowing harassment to happen in the workplace by not taking reasonable steps to stop it, or retaliating against the employee for filing a discrimination claim or asking for a reasonable accommodation to be made for their religious practices.


Call a Chicago Attorney Today


Unfortunately, discrimination against Muslim employees happens on a daily basis in Chicago, which hurts the Muslim community’s chances to make a living, receive promotions, work in peace, and to feel accepted by their coworkers. If you have been discriminated against in any way, you need to contact a Chicago employment lawyer with Goldman & Ehrlich today for help.


Sexual Harassment and the Employer’s Duties


As an Employer, When is the Company Held Liable for Sexual Harassment?


Employers, whether they are small or large, have many responsibilities in the workplace and these responsibilities are not limited to taking stock of inventory or answering to shareholders. As an employer, you must not only treat your employees with respect and avoid discrimination, but you also have a duty to protect employees from each other. Even if an employer did not sexually harass an employee, they can still be held liable if a manager engages in sexual harassment, or employer failed to take effective action to stop an employee from harassing a co-worker.


Hostile Work Environment


An employer can be held liable for sexual harassment if they failed to take reasonable action to prevent harassment from taking place. For example, if an employer knew or should have known that certain employees were sexually harassing other employees, the employer has a legal obligation to intervene. While traditional sexual harassment training will not prevent harassment from taking place, it might reduce damages or limit the employer’s liability in sexual harassment cases, according to the New York Times. More successful measures might include civility training (teaching people how to behave as opposed to how not to behave), empowering bystanders to speak up, promoting more women, and encouraging or even requiring reporting.


When is the Perpetrator Considered to be the “Employer”?


If you are the sole owner of a small business that only has four employees, it is somewhat obvious that you are the sole employer. However, in large businesses, it is not so simple. If an employee claims that their employer made unwanted sexual advancements, engaged in quid pro quo sexual harassment, or sexually assaulted the employee, the employer will be held liable when one of the following parties commits the act:


  • The president, CEO, or owner of the company can be held personally liable for sexual harassment that they engage in;
  • Immediate supervisors who have authority over the victimized employee;
  • Supervisors who engage in quid pro quo harassment, such as only providing a promotion for an employee if he/she sleeps with the supervisor.


If another employee or non-immediate supervisor committed the alleged sexual assault, the employer is still liable if he had reasonable notice of the harassment and failed to act, or could have reasonably anticipated that an employee might harass a co-worker. If the employer was aware that an employee engaged in prior harassment, and then engages in harassment in the future, this is something the employer should have reasonably anticipated.



Contact Us Today


According to a recent ABC poll, 54 percent of women have experienced “unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances,” 30 percent of women have experienced this behavior from male colleagues, and 25 percent of women said that these men had sway over their careers. Sexual harassment is a real threat to all types of businesses and employers. For assistance with a claim, call Goldman & Ehrlich today. We are eager to assist you throughout each step of your case.


Chicago Passes New Ordinance to Help Protect Hotel Employees from Sexual Harassment

The Committee on Workplace Development and Audit within the Chicago City Council voted to amend the Municipal Code to mandate that hotel employer to provide its employees with mobile panic devices when they work in and around bathrooms and guest rooms.


This new ordinance was enacted in largely based on survey responses indicating that nearly 60 percent of hotel employees in Chicago reported incidents of sexual harassment by guests and supervisors. The ordinance has been described as the “Hands Off Pants On” anti-harassment ordinance, according to the Chicago Tribune.


What the New Ordinance Does


Hotel employers will now need to meet the following new requirements to ensure their employees are safe from sexual harassment:


  1. As mentioned, offer employees a panic button, the cost of which cannot be passed on to the employee, which can be used to alert proper authorities of sexual assault or harassment.
  2. Create a policy that is meant to provide protection for employees against sexual assault and harassment. This policy must encourage employees to report instances of sexual harassment by guests, set forth procedures that the complaining employee can follow which may include letting the employee leave the workplace and immediate area of danger is perceived until hotel security or Chicago police arrive;
  3. Distribute a copy of their hotel’s anti-sexual harassment policy to all employees;
  4. Post the anti-sexual harassment policy in open and accessible areas of the hotel where employees would be reasonably expected to see it.


What Happens If Employers Violate This Ordinance


If you are an employee who reported a harassment incident and the employer violates this new ordinance, the employer could be subjected to a monetary fine for each violation. According to the ordinance, every day a violation is allowed to continue constitutes a distinct and separate offense.


This ordinance was passed by Committee and is likely to be signed into law by the City Council. If this happens, the law will be effective within ninety days of signature.


Speak to a Chicago Employment Lawyer Right Away


As you can see, if you are an employee who has been subjected to sexual harassment, you have legal avenues to hold a negligent employer accountable for not providing a safe workplace. If you have questions or concerns about how your legal rights after a harassment incident, speak to an experienced Chicago employment lawyer with Goldman & Ehrlich today.

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.