Just as the partial government shutdown shuttered the doors at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency announced a $4.9 million settlement in a religious discrimination case.
According to the agency, the shipping company refused to hire persons with long hair or beards, even if their appearance had a religious reason. Furthermore, UPS delayed religious accommodation requests or denied them outright, according to court documents. The company did not admit liability and characterized the settlement as a business decision. We want “to focus our energy on our hiring and promotion process, rather than lengthy and costly court proceedings,” UPS said in a statement.
The settlement is just the latest in a series of employment discrimination claims against UPS.
The company settled a multimillion-dollar disability discrimination action in 2017, and another religious discrimination action in 2013. “Failure to make a reasonable accommodation is the most common type of religious discrimination in Illinois,” commented Chicago employment law attorney Jonathan Goldman. “But this term confuses many workers. As a result, they give in too quickly and give up too much.”
Most people assume that a phrase like reasonable accommodation means give and take, he explained. But in this context, and as far as the employee is concerned, this process is basically all taking and no giving. If the worker requests a religious accommodation, the employer must grant it unless the request would cause an undue hardship.
For example, assume David works in retail. He is a Christian and he wants Sundays off. His boss is also a Christian, but he feels that the religion does not specifically prohibit working on Sundays. Nevertheless, David’s boss offers to let him off every other Sunday. David might be tempted to take that offer.
But the “not officially recognized” bit is irrelevant. If David’s religious beliefs about Sundays are sincere, the law protects him. In fact, even if David started his own church and embraced certain beliefs, the law would still protect him. It does not matter if the belief was dogmatic or not.
Second, in the “reasonable accommodation” department, David and other workers meet their initial burden by demonstrating their religious beliefs and needs. They do not have to negotiate further unless the employer establishes an undue hardship. Assuming there are other employees who are available to work on Sunday, that defense probably does not apply. That’s true even if the other workers are not as qualified as David. A marginal loss is not the same thing as an undue hardship.
The second form of religious discrimination is decisions that are based, at least in part, on religion.
Typically, these decisions include hiring/firing and promotions/demotions. One would think that employers know the law and would not engage in this activity, but it happens often. For example, an employer could refuse to hire a woman who wears a hijab or give a woman a promotion on the condition that she begin attending church.
A few religious discrimination cases involve employee harassment. If that happens, the employer has a duty to promptly and thoroughly investigate the matter, and then take appropriate action based on the investigation’s results. A breakdown in any phase could give rise to a legal claim.
Contact us today at 312.332.6733 to schedule a free consultation.
Chinatown’s Xing Ying Employment Agency promised workers good wages and pleasant employment conditions.
But instead, according to court documents, the company “essentially acted as central a supply house for a buffet restaurant industry seeking to profit from illegal and exploitative wages and conditions of employment.”
Again according to court documents, the Agency ran advertisements in Chinese-language newspapers targeting immigrant workers. Once these individuals enrolled with the company, the promised lavish wages never appeared. Neither did the promised housing. Many Xing Ying workers lived under an 18th Street bridge. According to a media investigation, Xing Ying was part of a much wider ring of similar exploitative employment services.
These issues are widespread, as “our Civil Rights bureau and workplace rights bureau are always taking complaints,” remarked an Illinois Attorney General spokesperson.
Types of Illegal Discrimination
Like most other jurisdictions, Illinois is an at-will employment state. For the most part, employers may hire and fire employees at any time for good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all. However, even in this environment, workers have legal rights.
“Workers cannot be fired for an illegal reason, and they must be treated fairly at work,” said Chicago employment law attorney Jonathan Goldman. Fair treatment means minimum wage, no unauthorized paycheck deductions, and no illegal conduct. The types of illegal discrimination include:
Some forms of discrimination are in a grey area.
For example, the Supreme Court has yet to rule whether transgender discrimination falls into the “sexual orientation” discrimination category under federal law. However, several courts, including the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, have found that “gender stereotyping”, expecting a female or male to conform to their gender identities and expected gender character, are illegal. Illinois state law also prohibits transgender discrimination.
To establish an employment discrimination case, the victim must present enough evidence to suggest that the adverse action against the employee was based on discrimination.
Replacing an older employee with a younger employee is often sufficient. The employer must then provide a nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse action. That burden is often easy to meet. Most cases are then fought on the issue of whether the employer’s claimed reason was just a pretext or an excuse for discrimination.
Damages in most employment law cases include both monetary and injunctive relief.
Back wages are often the biggest category of monetary damages. Usually, the parties do not resolve their dispute for many months. Other types of economic damages may be available as well, such as lost health insurance benefits. Additional noneconomic damages may be available as well, such as compensatory damages for the stress and anxiety that a victim of discrimination may suffer.
Injunctive relief is available as well. Sometimes, that could mean reinstatement. Other injunctive relief includes antidiscrimination programs on the job, so other employees are not victimized in the same way.
Many EEOC cases involve sexual harassment claims. The EEOC is anxious to resolve these cases, and that attitude sometimes works in the defendant’s favor.
On June 25, 2017, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that Anchor Staffing would pay $30,000 to settle sexual harassment and retaliation allegations. Court documents state that the temporary agency refused to give Ana Magdana more work after she complained about sexual harassment. In addition to paying money, Anchor Staffing must abide by a two-year consent decree.
About a month earlier, the EEOC announced a similar settlement with a Downers Grove Burger King franchise. Heartland Food LLC agreed to pay $55,000 and furnish similar non-monetary relief to resolve sexual harassment claims. The agency said little about that case, besides the fact that a female employee complained about a male manager.
“These two cases are significant for two reasons,” offered Chicago employment attorney Jonathan Goldman. “First, these settlements are not big dollar amounts for big companies. But for regional businesses and small franchisees, $50,000 may be almost a year’s profits. Second, the government is very aggressive in sexual harassment cases, largely because they are easy to prove.”
The Anchor Staffing settlement did not even involve sexual harassment, Mr. Goldman noted. Instead, the EEOC pursued a retaliation claim. As a result, the agency does not need to prove sexual harassment, age discrimination, or anything else. It simply must establish that the defendant took some action against the employee because of the complaint.
Generally, the EEOC need only establish a temporal relationship. If the complaint was on June 1 and the action was on June 15, an employer will be hard-pressed to defeat a retaliation claim. So, we take a very proactive approach and try to resolve these cases as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Details were so sketchy with regard to the Burger King settlement because the employer probably included a confidentiality clause in the settlement, Mr. Goldman speculated. In many cases, the EEOC insists on a slightly larger monetary settlement before it agrees to such a clause. But in many cases, such language is worth a little extra money.
A confidentiality clause makes the EEOC’s evidence appear weak. The bellicose quote in the press release, which is something like “that company got what it deserved,” then seems rather empty. Furthermore, it is easier for the defendant to characterize the settlement as a business decision. That’s normally the case, because it would cost a lot more than $30,000 or $50,000 to litigate such a claim. Furthermore, if anyone presses the company for details, the spokesperson simply cites the confidentiality clause and drops the matter. Contact us today at 312.332.6733 to discuss your case.
All of us expect to be treated with dignity and respect at our place of employment and state and federal laws protect us from discriminatory action by our employers. Employment laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, disability, and genetic information.
Furthermore, employees may not be retaliated against for making good faith claims against these forms of discrimination or refusing to participate in activities that promote them. Unfortunately, some employees face retaliation for standing up for their legal rights and opposing workplace discrimination.
If you believe you were retaliated against for standing up for your rights, you will need to prove that you took part in a protected activity, suffered a negative action, and there was causation between the two. Speaking to a qualified Chicago employment attorney from the onset of your case can help give you the best chance
Engaging in protected activities
Standing up to discrimination is a protected activity under federal law. Employees may do this by either communicating the opposition to their employer or filing a claim with a state or federal employment agency. Your communication should make clear that you feel the employer’s actions or requests are discriminatory.
To prove you engaged in a protected activity, you will want to save any communications between you and your employer about the event. Many times, employers may assert the employee took part in an activity not covered by state or federal law but having this communication can demonstrate the contrary.
If you received a negative performance review, write up, or other written disciplinary action around the time of your protected activity, you will need to save this documentation. While this documentation may not specifically say you were reprimanded for making a complaint, you may be able to show a link between the two.
Save any other communications like emails, memos, or electronic communications you believe show your employer. Take notes to document daily engagements you believe may show a pattern of retaliatory behavior so your attorney can help investigate these claims. The notes should include all relevant “who, what, where and when” information, and possible witnesses.
Chicago employment attorneys
If you believe you were retaliated against by your employer for opposing or standing up to discrimination in your workplace, contact the experienced employment law attorneys of Goldman & Ehrlich for a consultation about your case. For over 25 years, our dedicated attorneys have helped employees in their times of need and hold wrongdoers accountable.
Six former temp workers for the Chicago office of a nationwide staffing agency recently filed an employment discrimination lawsuit alleging the defendant routinely passed over African American workers in favor of Hispanic workers. The suit, filed in a Chicago federal District Court, alleges many of the same labor law violations as another recent suit against another large staffing agency in Illinois.
In their claim, the plaintiffs make several shocking allegations about the defendant’s business practices, going as far as to assign code words to black and Latino workers to signal the kinds of laborers the companies wanted. The suit named several other area businesses as defendants for their role in the alleged discrimination as it was at these parties’ behest the behavior became part of the staffing agency’s practice.
According to the lawsuit, the staffing company would go into Latino neighborhoods to find prospective workers and bus them to job sites but did nothing similar in African American neighborhoods. The plaintiffs claim this practice is a prime example of the overt racism some companies demonstrate to discriminate against workers of color.
Thousands could join racial discrimination lawsuit
While the suit is still in its early stages, the plaintiffs hope the court certifies the claim as a class action so that similarly affected workers could also recover for their damages. If so, potentially thousands of African American workers employed by the staffing agency could join the claim and recover for their damages.
The suit seeks back pay for jobs lost, attorneys’ fees to cover the cost of litigation, and other damages the court may seem fit to award. Additionally, the plaintiffs hope the federal court imposes an injunction on the defendant to terminate the company’s discriminatory business practices so that all workers get a fair shake moving forward.
Under state and federal labor laws, employers cannot discriminate against anyone on the basis of their race, religion, or country of origin. Violators can be subject to civil penalties, including paying restitution to affected workers.
Chicago employment discrimination lawyers
If you believe you were passed over for a job, promotion, or otherwise subjected to racial discrimination at your place of employment, contact our office to discuss your case. Our dedicated team of Chicago employment discrimination lawyers have years of experience bringing claims under state and federal employment laws and can help you get justice.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. settled an employment discrimination case with a former store clerk for $75,000 over allegations the company failed to accommodate a protected class. The plaintiff, a worker in the Hodgkins, Illinois store, battled cancer and needed simple, modest accommodations to allow her to perform her job but the defendant subsequently rescinded compliance.
To perform her job effectively, the plaintiff merely needed a stool at her work station and to work on a modified schedule to cope with her health condition. Wal-Mart made the accommodations for a while but the situation eventually became quite difficult for the plaintiff when the defendant removed the chair, telling the employee she needed to haul a chair from the store’s furniture department herself at the start and end of each shift.
While lugging a chair across the sales floor may seem like a minor and clumsy inconvenience, the act took its toll on the plaintiff due to her weakened state from surviving her fight with cancer, an accomplishment which should be celebrated and not punished. Furthermore, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for their employees, something Wal-Mart demonstrated it could easily do but eventually backtracked.
Even worse, the plaintiff claimed her coworkers subjected her to relentless name calling, using words like “cripple” and “chemo brain.” To curb future bad acts by the employees Wal-Mart employs and supervises at the Hodgkins location, the federal judge overseeing the case imposed an injunction requiring two years of employee retraining and oversight.
Often times, employees are not properly educated by their employers about federal discrimination laws and innocent victims pay the price for the employer’s inability to properly train and supervise other workers.
Chicago employment discrimination lawyers
If you believe you were discriminated against at work, contact our office to speak to one of our dedicated Chicago employment discrimination lawyers about your case. Our office has years of experience ensuring workers are protected under state and federal labor laws and can determine if you have grounds to file a suit.
If you or a family member should ever be struck by a serious illness or medical condition, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives you certain rights to take time off from work. Employees must meet certain conditions to be granted this type of leave, but if they do meet these conditions, they are eligible to return to work at an equivalent position with the same benefits.
While most employers adhere to the provisions of the FMLA, disputes often arise that put hard working employees against an employer they rely on for the job that allows them to provide for their family. When this happens, the employee may file FMLA lawsuits and recover various forms of compensation.
What is the FMLA?
Any employee with a serious health condition requiring in-patient treatment or ongoing treatment by a physician is eligible to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from work. The key is that the condition must be serious, such as an illness, injury, mental condition, or even the birth or adoption of a child.
Employees may take all 12 weeks of leave at once or use them in parts to resolve their health issues. Workers are also eligible to work a reduced schedule, in certain circumstances.
Qualifications for FMLA
There are certain conditions employees must meet to qualify for leave under the FMLA. The individual must have worked for their employer for at least one year, encompassing 1,250 work hours (approximately an average of 24 hours per week).
Furthermore, the business must have at least 50 employees working within a 75-mile radius of the company’s location. State and federal agencies must provide leave under the FMLA no matter the size of the business.
What can I recover if my employer violates the FMLA?
Employees discriminated against under the FMLA are able to file civil suits to recover various forms of compensation. These FMLA lawsuits must be filed within two years of the alleged incident or the employee may lose legal standing to recover damages.
FMLA lawsuits can recover damages for:
Back wages plus interest
Reimbursement for medical care of family member
Liquidated damages if the employer acted in bad faith
Chicago FMLA lawyers
If you feel your rights were violated under the FMLA, contact or call 312.332.6733 our office for a consultation about your case. Our Chicago FMLA lawyers can investigate the circumstances of your case and determine your best course of legal action.
The Illinois Human Rights Act affords all state residents certain rights and protections from discrimination. Included in the act are provisions against employment discrimination for various protected classes. Employees who feel they have suffered discrimination may file claims with the Illinois Department of Human Rights to investigate claims and hold wrongdoers accountable.
The list of protected classes under the Illinois Human Rights Act include:
Sex (including sexual harassment);
Order of protection status;
Sexual orientation (which includes gender-related identity);
Physical and mental disability.
Discrimination charge process
Employees considering filing discrimination charges against their employers should understand there are important time deadlines that must be met or their claim may go unresolved. The time deadline forfiling employment discrimination charges with the Illinois Department of Human Rights is 180 days from the alleged incident.
The discrimination charge process is as follows:
Intake – the employee files his or her complaint with the Department of Human Resources, either in person or in writing.
Mediation – An optional step to the process is mediation, but one that may allow for parties to bring the complaint to a more expedient resolution; otherwise an investigation of the charge takes place.
Investigation – The case is assigned to an investigator who interviews both parties to uncover more details about the case. The investigator may recommend a settlement at some point to help resolve the case
Findings and results – Once the investigation is completed, the investigator prepares a written report recommending whether or not there is “substantial evidence” of a violation of the act. Should substantial evidence exist, the employee may take his or her complaint before an administrative law judge at theIllinois Human Rights Commission
Legal review – A public hearing is scheduled before an administrative law judge. Employees are legally required to have an attorney at this stage of the complaint
Do discrimination claims take long to resolve?
The Illinois Human Rights Act requires the Department of Human Rights conclude its proceedings within one year of the complaint being filed unless the investigation is extended in writing by both parties. While a year may seem like a long time to resolve a case, the law affords due process to both sides involved in an Illinois employment discrimination claim.
Illinois employment discrimination attorneys
If you feel you were discriminated at your workplace by your employer, contact the Illinois employment discrimination attorneys of Goldman & Ehrlich for aconsultation about your case. Our office serves clients in Chicago and throughout the area, including in Cook County, Lake County, DuPage County, Will County, Kane County, and McHenry County.
When workers in Illinois feel they have been discriminated against, they often have questions about what, if any, their legal recourse might be. Often times, employees feel as though they face an uphill battle against a powerful employer with access to high caliber legal representation.
Fortunately for workers, there are a number of different routes that may be pursued to solve their problems and hold their employers responsible for violations of state and federal laws. One agency tasked with investigating discrimination charges in the state is the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL).
If an employee levels a charge against their employer for discriminating against them in a certain way, the IDOL may step in to investigate the claim. Situations where IDOL may investigate an employer includegender wage discrimination or being a victim or having a member of the household who is a victim of domestic violence.
Filing discrimination claims with the Illinois Department of Labor
Employees who feel their discrimination case warrants investigation by IDOL should strongly consider hiring an experienced Chicago employment attorney to aid them from the onset of the claim. The process can be quite complicated in some aspects and having an attorney from the start can ensure proper paperwork is filled out and time deadlines met.
Employees must file their claims within one year of the alleged incident. With the claim, the employee should include supporting documents such as pay stubs and payroll records. The complaints are anonymous and the IDOL will look back as far as three years to find supporting evidence.
How long do IDOL investigations take?
The length of time an investigation may take depends on the complexities of the case. Investigators will look into whether reasonable cause exists that a violation of the law. Investigations may be conducted either in person or via correspondence between investigators and the employer.
Chicago employment discrimination attorneys
If you feel you received unequal pay due to your gender or were discriminated against because of domestic violence within your household, theexperienced Chicago employment discrimination attorneys of Goldman & Ehrlich can help you prepare your claim with the Illinois Department of Labor.
Contact us online or call 312-332-6733 for a consultation about your case and discover your legal options. Our attorneys serve clients in Chicago and throughout Cook County, Lake County, DuPage County, Will County, Kane County, and McHenry County.
All employees have what are called “basic rights” in the workplace. These rights include a right to privacy, fair compensation for work performed (no indentured servitude), and freedom from discrimination.
Employees are Protected Against Discrimination in the Workplace
Freedom from discrimination is a very important protection that the federal government provides to employees. Those rights include the right to be free from discrimination based on age, gender, race, national origin, or religion. These rights are extended not only to employees but prospective employees in the hiring process.
Hidden Discrimination in Hiring
What about the hidden discrimination during the hiring process? Discrimination that is subtle and often overlooked. This type of discrimination can happen due to sexual orientation, race, or criminal history. It may be because an applicant doesn’t look like what an employer imagined when hearing his or her voice. Whether the applicant is a different race or transgendered, hidden discrimination can sometimes be detected if an applicant notices a change in behavior or attitude from a prospective employer between the time the application was submitted or phone interview to an in-person interview.
Employers also may not discriminate based on medical records or handicaps. Employers are not allowed to access an applicant’s medical records. They are confidential and as long as the applicant’s medical condition is not a factor in the function of the job. If an employer inquires into any medical history, or implies that they have concerns about a medical condition then that may be a reason for not being hired and considered discrimination.
In order to prove that you have been discriminated against you must show that:
You are part of a protected class.
You were qualified for the position applied for
The job was not offered to you
The employer continued to seek applicants or a less qualified applicant was hired.
To qualify as a protected class you must have been discriminated against based on race, gender, national orientation, disability, religion, and in some cases sexual orientation.
You must show that you were the best applicant for the job. If can be difficult to prove but if another applicant was hired and was less qualified, it may make your case stronger.
Job was not offered to you:
This is an easy requirement to meet. If the job WAS offered to you and you rejected it, then you will not have a case.
Employer continued to seek applicants:
If you were qualified for the position and the employer continued to seek additional applicants, you may be able to move forward with your case. If another applicant who was equally qualified and also a part of a protected class was hired, your case may not be as strong.
Contact a Chicago Employment Discrimination Attorney at Goldman & Ehrlich
If you have questions about hidden discriminatory practices in the hiring process, Goldman & Ehrlich has answers for workers and employers. Call us at 312.332.6733 today or contact our Chicago office online
Goldman & Ehrlich is located in Chicago, IL and serves clients in and around Chicago, Cook County, Lake County, DuPage County, Will County, Kane County, and McHenry County.
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