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New 2017 Illinois Employment Law Gives Ex-Offenders Opportunities

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New 2017 Illinois Employment Law Gives Ex-Offenders Opportunities

New legislation recently took effect allowing certain ex-offenders to work in state institutions like schools and park districts a certain amount of years after their conviction and jail terms. Like many other laws taking effect this year, the law is a significant and progressive move designed at strengthening the power workers have to help provide for themselves and their families during difficult economic times.

Furthermore, allowing certain types of ex-offenders into the state workforce can help to break up the cycle of poverty and recidivism plaguing men and women who have otherwise served their debt to society. Ex-offenders are especially at risk for many of the pitfalls any person can be susceptible of in a volatile economy and should be given an opportunity to re-enter society and be able to provide for themselves and their families.

Other new laws taking effect this year also allow ex-felons to apply for state licensing to work in various industries their criminal record would otherwise have denied. Some of the 118 occupations for which ex-felons can now apply for licensure include cosmetology, hair and nail care, roofing, and funeral services.

Can my employer check my criminal background in Illinois?

While allowing ex-offenders to apply for state jobs and licensures is a huge step towards rebuilding lives and communities, Illinois also bars private employers from looking into the criminal backgrounds of applicants deemed qualified to perform the job. Under the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act (JOQAA), employers and employment agencies cannot ask qualified applicants about their criminal background until a conditional offer is extended.

Individuals should also know there are exceptions to the JOQAA, which can still bar felons from gaining employment with certain organizations. The three categories of job applicants which can still be denied employment due to criminal backgrounds include:

  • State and federal jobs requiring background checks by law;
  • Companies employing workers under the Illinois Emergency Medical Systems Act; and
  • Jobs needing a standard fidelity bond or an equivalent bond.

To help protect workers, the Illinois Department of Labor enforces the law and may impose penalties on organizations violating the law. Furthermore, employees who feel they may have been illegally discriminated against due to their criminal background may also discuss their case with an experienced Illinois employment lawyer to recover compensation, if available, under various state laws.

Reach out to us today for help

Contact our office to speak to one of the qualified Illinois employment lawyers of Goldman & Ehrlich. Our office serves clients throughout Chicago, Cook County, Lake County, DuPage County, Will County, Kane County, and McHenry County.

Orland Park Man Sues Chick-Fil-A After Restaurant Denies Employment

An Orland Park man recently filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against an area Chick-Fil-A restaurant alleging the fast food company denied him employment due to his disability despite references vouching for his capabilities. The claim, filed on December 23, 2016, claims the plaintiff’s work coach spoke with the restaurant about hiring the man but was told the eatery was not interested in hiring a person with the plaintiff’s disability.

According to the complaint, “The branch manager responded that Chick-Fil-A was not interested in hiring people with disabilities. When the job coach reiterated that she thought (the plaintiff) would do a good job, the branch manager stated that people with disabilities would not be able to succeed at Chick-Fil-A.”

The allegations, if true, could possibly constitute a violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and carry substantial penalties, including paying restitution to the plaintiff. While the plaintiff’s autistic condition may prevent him from doing certain things, he and his life coach believe if an employer makes certain reasonable accommodations, as required under federal labor laws, the plaintiff could perform his duties adequately.

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Passed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act “prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities.” Under the ADA, employers must make reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities and make facilities like bathrooms and entrances accessible to differently abled persons.

Employers who are sued by the government for not complying with the ADA may be subject to substantial civil penalties, even for first-time violations if egregious enough. Maximum penalties for first-time violations may be as high as $55,000 to $75,000 and subsequent violations may be as high as $150,000. Individuals who sue the employer can recover all lost wages and benefits, be reinstated with appropriate accommodations, compensatory damages, and be reimbursed for their legal fees.

One of the most common myths associated with the ADA is that compliance can cost businesses too much, either leading to loss of productivity or refusal to consider otherwise qualified applicants. The truth is that only three percent of accommodations cost businesses more than $1,000 and the overwhelming majority cost substantially less to help workers thrive in the workplace.

Contact our Chicago employment discrimination lawyers for help

If you believe your rights were violated under the ADA or another state or federal labor law, contact our office to discuss your case. For over 25 years, the dedicated Chicago employment discrimination lawyers of Goldman & Ehrlich have helped employees in their times of need and hold wrongdoers accountable.

Temp Workers Bring Class Action Lawsuit Against Staffing Agency Alleging Racial Discrimination

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.

Former Chicago Walmart Employee Gets $75,000 In Discrimination Lawsuit

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.

What Are My Rights Under Illinois Employment Laws?

In Illinois, the law provides numerous protections to workers their employers must abide by or face serious fines, penalties, or injunctions. These laws cover many aspects of employment, including minimum wage, equal pay, child labor, rest and meal breaks, and leave for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Minimum wage and overtime

The minimum wage in the state of Illinois is $8.25 per hour. This extends to all businesses with at least four or more employees, although there are certain exceptions to the law. The hourly wage for tipped employees like waiters must be at least 60 percent of the prevailing minimum wage and the worker’s total earnings must equal at least the current minimum wage.

Equal pay

Men and women must be paid equal wages for the same or substantially similar work. Men and women can only be paid different wages for the same position if the difference is due to seniority, merit, or factors other than gender.

Meal and rest periods

Workers must be given at least 24 hours of continuous rest in a seven-day period. However, employers may obtain permits from the Department of Labor to allow employees to voluntarily work seven consecutive days in a week. Furthermore, employees working more than 7.5 hours in a day must be given a 20-minute meal break after the fifth hour of work.

Child labor

Generally speaking, children under the age of 14 years may not work, but there are certain exceptions. Children under the age of 16 may work so long as the school district the child lives in issues a work permit, the job is not hazardous, work is limited to no more than three hours on a school day, work is performed between 7am and 7pm during the school year, and the minor is given a 30-minute meal break after the fifth hour of work.

Domestic or sexual violence leave

Victims of sexual abuse or their family members may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period to cope with the situation.

Illinois employment lawyers

Workers who believe their employer failed to comply with Illinois employment laws should strongly consider speaking to an experienced Illinois employment lawyer about their case to discuss legal action. Under the law, employees could be entitled to reinstatement, back wages, interest on unpaid income, and other relief. Contact our office for a consultation about your case. Call us today312.332.6733

Illinois General Assembly Poised To Override Governor’s Veto On State Businesses Performing Roofing

In August 2016, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed Illinois Senate Bill 2982, a piece of legislation that would exclude business owners from using their own employees to perform roofing work on their own business. Now, the Illinois General Assembly is poised to override the governor’s veto and prohibit such business activities, perhaps to the detriment of businesses trying to grow and create jobs in the state.

The bill would have amended the Illinois Roofing Industry Licensing Act to require employees performing repairs and waterproofing on an employer’s business to be licensed contractors. The amended regulation would not apply to emergency repairs and waterproofing on business or citizens performing the work on their own residences.

Chicago Employment Discrimination Attorney

Explaining his reasoning for vetoing Senate Bill 2982, Gov. Rauner said “Professional licenses are sometimes needed to protect public safety. But Illinois’s licensing scheme is outdated, often nonsensical, and out of step with practices in other states.” The veto was seen as a major victory for the rights of business owners across the state, allowing them to maintain necessary control over their place of business.

Gov. Rauner went on to call for the Illinois General Assembly to work with the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation on comprehensive licensing reform. Additionally, the governor highlighted a need to broadly examine circumstances in which a license should be required, particularly the impacts costs would have on economic growth.

Currently, Illinois struggles with many economic challenges including ballooning pensions and a migration of businesses and workforce out of the state. Illinois already has over 100 professions requiring licenses and the bill could have only served to expand an already over-regulated economy.

While many regulations are well intentioned, they oftentimes have unforeseen consequences that can negatively impact growth, hiring, or even subject employers to costly fines for failing to fully comply with the law. In these situations, consulting with an experienced Chicago employment lawyer can help alleviate legal stress and ensure business goes forward as planned.

Chicago employment lawyers

If you are a business owner and have questions about how regulations will impact your company’s growth or need legal guidance on a possible violation, contact our office for a consultation about your case. The dedicated Chicago employment lawyers of Goldman & Ehrlich have years of experience helping businesses and employees navigate the complicated legal waters of business law. Call us today312.332.6733.

Is Your Business Complying With The Illinois Prevailing Wage Act?

If you are a contractor or subcontractor in the state of Illinois, you should be aware of the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act, which pertains to wages for construction workers, laborers, and mechanics on public works. Understanding the Act is important, as even unintentional violations of the law could have severe impacts on the economic health of a business and even prevent it from obtaining future public contracts with the state.

Under the Act, employees on public works must be paid the general prevailing rate on public works projects, which consists of the hourly cash rate as well as any fringe benefits awarded to other workers conducting work similar in character in the locality where the job is performed. To help aid with compliance, the Illinois Department of Labor provides a county by county list of the prevailing wages for various trades, including:

  • Truck drivers
  • Brick layers
  • Boilermakers
  • Carpenters
  • Cement masons
  • Electricians
  • Iron workers
  • Machinists
  • Laborers
  • Painters
  • Roofers
  • Plumbers

The law defines “public works” as “all fixed works constructed or demolished by any public body, or paid for wholly or in part out of public funds” and includes “all projects financed in whole or in part with bonds, grants, loans, or other funds made available by or through the State or any of its political subdivisions.”

Penalties for violating the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act

Contractors and subcontractors found underpaying their laborers on public works projects must compensate the employees the difference between the wages paid and the prevailing wage under the law. Furthermore, violators could be subject to other penalties including fines and punitive damages.

Even worse, repeat violators could be barred for receiving contracts for public works projects for four years if found to have broken the provisions of the Prevailing Wage Act two times within a five-year period. Without the income from state government contracts, many construction companies would struggle to stay in business.

When the Illinois Department of Labor receives a complaint, the director conducts an audit and investigation of the incident and provides a notice of violation to the employer if one exists. After receiving a second notice of violation, the contractor may request an initiation of a hearing within 10 days of the notice to try and prevent the prohibition from receiving state contracts.

Illinois employment lawyers

If you received a notice your business violated the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act, contact our office for a consultation on your case. The experienced employment lawyers of Goldman & Ehrlich can help your business avoid costly penalties or debarment which could cripple your company. Call us today 312-332-6733.

Lake County Employees Take Fight Over Labor Law Violations To State Labor Board

The fight between the Lake County Circuit Clerk’s Office and the county headed before the Illinois Labor Board over allegations the Clerk’s Office committed various violations, including retaliation against an employee and bargaining in bad faith. The Illinois chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is headquartered in Springfield and represents over 58,000 public employees throughout the state.

The showdown has been months in the making, stemming from a fight over whether Lake County employees can unionize, and apparently culminated in this latest legal tussle after workers were terminated. Furthermore, the employees’ union claims the head of the Lake County Circuit Clerk, Keith Brin, refused to bargain in good faith with them and tried to discourage union membership or support.

According to reports, Brin initially resisted unionization of his office’s employees claiming the union was using coercion and fraud to secure their effort. After an Appeals Court ruled against Brin, he dropped the effort to prevent the initiative. During the appeals process, Brin refused the bargain with the AFSCME, something the union claims was in bad faith.

What can I do if I have been wrongfully terminated?

While this particular case appears to have many layers to it beyond the wrongful termination of an employee, the allegation is nonetheless serious. Whether the individual is a state, local, or private sector employee, he or she may have grounds to sue the employer if the true reason for the termination is based on illegal discrimination (race, gender, etc.) or retaliation for certain protected activities (attempting to form a union), breach of a written employment contract, or violated state laws on terminating employees.

In these situations, employees need to gather certain evidence, such as their employment personnel file and retain any communications or memos between themselves and their employer. Additionally, the workers should retain a copy of their employee handbook or code of conduct, if such a document exists.

Retaining an attorney from the start is also extremely important to ensuring all relevant information to make the case is collected.

Illinois wrongful termination lawyers

If you were disciplined or terminated from your state or local employer, contact Goldman & Ehrlich for a consultation about your case. Our Illinois civil service employment attorneys have years of experience helping state and local employees appeal their layoffs and suspensions.

Our office services clients throughout Chicago, Cook County, Lake County, DuPage County, Will County, Kane County, and McHenry County. Because strict time deadlines apply to filing these appeal, please contact us at your earliest convenience.

Cook County Passes Earned Sick Leave Ordinance

Cook County recently passed the Earned Sick Leave Ordinance, giving sweeping paid leave benefits to almost all employees in the county by allowing them to take time off to care for themselves and family members. The Ordinance takes effect July 2017 and is one of many new state and local employment laws passed this year in Illinois.

Under the new law, employees have the right to accrue at least 40 hours of paid sick leave in a 12-month period while on the job. Employees need only work a minimum of two hours during a two-week period within the boundaries of Cook County and work at least 80 hours during a 120-day period.

Time spent driving as part of work duties, including making deliveries and sales calls may count towards the minimum hour requirements to be covered. However, time spent commuting to and from does not count towards these requirements.

Businesses with at least one employee in Cook County must comply with the new law. Indian tribes and government employees are not covered under the Ordinance, though the latter may already be covered by local government employee benefits. Furthermore, some employees covered by collective bargaining agreements may also not be eligible to accrue paid sick leave under the Ordinance.

Who is covered under the new Chicago paid time off law?

Employees already covered by an existing paid time off program may not be eligible for additional paid time off so long as the program meets the minimum requirements set by the Ordinance. Employees will be eligible to accrue paid time off starting the first day after it takes effect on July 01, 2017.

Workers may accrue one hour of paid sick time off for working their average weekly hours. For many employees, this will be 40 hours per week but those working part time hours will still earn one hour of time off each week so long as they work their average weekly hours.

It should be noted that accrued sick leave is capped at 40 hours per 12-month period, but workers may carry over up to 20 hours towards the next 12 months. No matter how many hours are carried over, the total amount of sick hours an individual can accrue is 40 hours.

Chicago employment lawyers

If you are an employee or employer and have legal issues surrounding this new law, contact our office to speak to an experienced Chicago employment lawyer. Goldman & Ehrlich serves clients throughout Chicago, Cook County, Lake County, DuPage County, Will County, Kane County, and McHenry County.

Is Your Business Compliant With The Chicago Minimum Wage Ordinance?

Thanks to the Chicago City Council’s passage of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago Minimum Wage Ordinance in December 2014, workers throughout the city have seen steady and meaningful increases in their hourly wages. The first increase took place in July 2015 and will continue until the city’s minimum wage increases to $13 per hour in July 2019, putting Chicago as one of the most progressive cities in the country when it comes to minimum wage laws.

Both employees and employers need to understand the timelines and qualifications for workers to receive these types of minimum wage pay increases. Noncompliance could result in hefty fines and other penalties.

Schedule for Chicago minimum wage increases

The Chicago Minimum Wage Ordinance covers both regular hourly workers and tipped employees, with different schedules and rate increases for each class of workers. The schedule for Chicago minimum wage increases is as follows:

Effective Date Minimum Hourly Wage for Non -Tipped Employees Minimum Hourly Wage for Tipped Employees
State Law $8.25 $4.95
July 1, 2015 $10.00 $5.45
July 1, 2016 $10.50 $5.95
July 1, 2017 $11.00 To be determined on or before June 1st of each year until 2019
July 1, 2018 $12.00
July 1, 2019 $13.00

How do I know if I am covered by the Chicago Minimum Wage Ordinance?

The Ordinance is very clear on who qualifies for the city’s minimum wage laws. Employers must pay their employees according to the law if the business maintains a facility in the city limits and/or is subject any of the city’s licensing requirements. Employees must be paid according to the Ordinance if the individual works for such an employer meeting the aforementioned criteria while physically present in Chicago for at least two hours within any two-week period.

Chicago employment lawyers

If you are an employee or an employer dealing with legal issues related to the Chicago Minimum Wage Ordinance, contact our office online or call 312-332-6733 to speak to one of our experienced Chicago employment lawyers. Goldman & Ehrlich serves clients throughout Chicago, Cook County, Lake County, DuPage County, Will County, Kane County, and McHenry County.