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The Extra Layer of Protection Afforded Government Employees

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The Extra Layer of Protection Afforded Government Employees

Those who work for the City of Chicago, one of the state’s counties or the State of Illinois itself, may not be aware that they may be subject to the protection of employment laws beyond those that protect those in the private sector. Such employees may be afforded additional protection for employment disputes, wrongful termination, and through the First Amendment protecting their rights to free speech in certain situations. If you work for a government entity and feel you may have been subjected to unfair to discrimination treatment, you should consider discussing your matter with attorneys who have experience in representing government employees, rather than try to fight city hall on your own. We encourage you instead to contact Chicago employment lawyers Goldman & Ehrlich to discuss and get started on your case.

Goldman & Ehrlich has been representing employees employed by the federal, state, county, and city government for over a quarter of a century. With Goldman & Ehrlich, you have direct access to one of our partner attorneys with over 45 years of combined experience. From start to finish, your case is managed by a partner. This assures you the personal attention and experience your case deserves. As a federal employee, Goldman & Ehrlich will be by your side throughout the EEO informal and formal process, and while your case charges may still be heard before an administrative law judge at the EEOC. .You may also have the right to sue in the U.S. District Court.

More and more individuals are beginning to realize and recognize that they can, in fact, fight city hall. When they feel they have been unjustly treated or discriminated against when it comes to their employment, there are proactive steps that can and should be taken. One needs to keep in mind, however, that federal employment law cases often involve rigid timelines and decisive decisions must often be made. Goldman & Ehrlich is here to help.

Goldman & Ehrlich are Chicago employment lawyers with a focus on employment litigation and employment discrimination. We continue to accept clients and pursue cases, even as we work our way through the Covid-19 crisis. To discuss your case and to begin to move forward to a successful conclusion, with social distancing practices to keep you safe and comfortable, contact us today.

EEOC Commissioner Speaks in Milwaukee

Goldman Ehrlich - Employment Lawyers

For the first time since 2016, Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner Victoria Lipnic addressed the annual Industry Liaison Group meeting, which was held in Wisconsin this year.

Commissioner Lipnic addressed two pressing employment law issues: pay equity and age discrimination. Specifically, Lipnic noted the looming September 30 deadline to comply with the EEO-1. Compliance requires most companies to submit payroll data dating back to 2017. Lipnic noted that such collection “is not in any way easy,” but that is “what a federal judge has ordered.” Lipnic also observed that most Millenials were just a few years away from Age Discrimination Act coverage.

On a final note, during the subsequent Q&A session, Lipnic told federal contractors they should “lead the way in recruiting for populations you traditionally have not gone to before.”

“Both pay discrimination and age discrimination are usually good examples of disparate impact discrimination,” explained Chicago employment discrimination lawyers Arthur R Ehrlich and Jonathan C. Goldman. “Company policies in these areas may appear to be neutral, but if they disproportionately affect a protected classification of workers, they are illegal.”

Companies may not intentionally set out to pay women less than men, but more often than not, there is a significant pay gap. Even if there is no “smoking gun” evidence of discrimination, a legal remedy may be available.

Some companies over-rely on salary history information. They believe there is nothing wrong with using a candidate’s past salary history to set a current salary level. But many women were underpaid due to their gender, whether intentionally or not, in their prior jobs. As a result, their salaries will continue to lag behind their male counterparts, and the disparity increases over time. This is why many states are now making it illegal for an employer to ask an employee about an their prior salary history.

Other companies use job history to set salary, and this calculation could adversely affect women as well. For example, blue-collar workers, like miners, generally earn more than white-collar nonprofessional workers, like clerks, secretaries, or administrative assistants. Blue-collar workers are often male, while many white-collar nonprofessionals are female.

Pay discrimination victims are generally entitled to back pay, reimbursement of legal fees, lost benefits, and other damages, including perhaps damages for emotional distress if they prevail at trial.

Age discrimination cases are sometimes harder to win today than they were in the 1990s. The Supreme Court has ruled that age must be the sole factor, as opposed to only a motivating factor, in the action taken against the employee. For example, the corporation’s decision to terminate or demote an older employee may have been based partly due to age but also based on a performance issue, even if the performance issue was not significant. Under these facts, assuming there was a real, as opposed to a fabricated performance issue, the older worker’s dismissal may not have violated the Age Discrimination Act.

For this reason, the EEOC may not pursue age discrimination claims as often as other actions. But an assertive attorney may still be willing to pursue these claims on the employee’s behalf.

What Are My Rights Under the FMLA?

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
  • Reinstatement
  • Attorney’s fees
  • 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.

How Do I Prove Whistleblower Retaliation?

As a matter of public policy, state and federal governments encourage individuals with intimate knowledge of fraud, waste, and abuse of governmental programs to step forward and report the wrongdoing. Under federal laws like the False Claims Act, these whistleblowers may be entitled to a portion of money recovered if the case is successfully prosecuted.

Despite being able to file many different whistleblower claims under seal and robust state and federal protections for employees who step forward with information of fraud, individuals may sometimes face retaliation from their employers. In these situations, the employee has the legal remedy to recover compensation for the damages suffered.

Whistleblower retaliation lawsuits

Under the federal and state laws, employers are barred from engaging in termination, discrimination, harassment, demotion, suspension, or threats against employees reporting fraud, waste, or abuse of federal or state programs. To successfully prove an employee was retaliated against, the whistleblower needs to prove:

  • They engaged in a protected act under the False Claims Act or other whistleblower programs
  • The employer had knowledge of the employee’s participation in a protected act
  • The discrimination was motivated by the employer’s knowledge of the employee’s protected actions

To satisfy the first element, the employee must demonstrate that they filed a whistleblower claim or that they were working towards this endeavor. This can include gathering information to turn over to whistleblower attorneys or investigators.

Proving the second and third elements can be a little more complicated. The employer must have knowledge the employee was working on or towards the filing of a whistleblower action, and that this motivated the discrimination.

An experienced whistleblower retaliation attorney can help plaintiffs demonstrate to courts the employer knew the employee’s participation in the protected action led or could lead to uncovering violations of anti-fraud statutes. The plaintiff must then demonstrate to the court a causal relationship between the employer’s knowledge of the employee’s motivations and the subsequent harm suffered by the whistleblower.

Chicago employment discrimination lawyers

If you believe you were discriminated against at your place of business because of your work in uncovering fraud, waste, or abuse of state or federal programs, contact or call 312.332.6733 our office for a consultation. Our Chicago employment discrimination lawyers can help you with job reinstatement, recouping compensation for lost wages, and recovering special damages for the harm you suffered. With over 25 years of employment law experience, Goldman & Ehrlich serves clients throughout Chicago, Illinois, and Southwestern Michigan.

Avoiding Wrongful Termination Claims

What is wrongful termination?

The first thing we should address is what wrongful termination is and what it isn’t. Many people, employees and employers alike have a misconception of what constitutes wrongful termination. Absent a union agreement or other contract specifying the terms of employment most employment relationships are “at will” agreements. This means that either party may decide that you are no longer a good fit for the job and decide that you should seek employment elsewhere. This also means that if an employer decides that they don’t like your fashion sense, they could decide to fire you. It isn’t fair but just because a termination isn’t fair, doesn’t mean it is a wrongful termination.

Wrongful termination is being let go because of reasons that are protected by federal law: You can’t legally be let go because of your sex, age, race, or religion, or because you complained about sexual harassment. Additionally, some states protect sexual orientation status, whistleblower status, and certain forms of speech in the workplace.

Preventing a lawsuit

As the employer, you should try to do all you can to prevent these types of lawsuits from taking place.

A few ways to do that is:

  1. Documentation: Implementing a paper trail for each employee will be a valuable asset if you ever need to fire an employee. Obviously, most people don’t let employees go for their choice of work tie so if you have an issue with an employee, it is always best to document it. Evaluations, disciplinary actions taken, warnings, etc.
  2. Policies and Procedures: Create very clear and concise workplace policies for your employees that are enforceable. These should include policies on discipline, termination, and standards of conduct. Having an employee handbook that is updated and legally enforceable is a huge asset.

Wrongful Termination lawsuits

If you’ve found yourself the defendant in a wrongful termination suit, you should contact an attorney immediately. If you are involved in an administrative law matter in Chicago, our lawyers are here to protect your rights and interests. Contact us by telephone at 312.332.6733 today or contact our office online to arrange a consultation with an experienced administrative law attorney.