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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.

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.


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.