Chicago Employment Law Attorneys

Chicago Employment Discrimination Attorneys

Protecting Employees’ Rights in the Illinois Workplace

The Law Offices of Eugene K. Hollander has obtained substantial awards in the areas of workplace discrimination and employees’ rights cases. Based in Chicago, Illinois, we represent workers in Cook, Lake, DuPage, Kane, Will, and McHenry counties. Call (312) 425-9100, (866) 764-7137 (Toll Free) to discuss your case with experienced employment lawyers.

Race Discrimination

Title VII of the United States Code prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because of their race. Title VII bars employers from treating someone differently on account of their race by giving them a lower wage, demoting them, creating a hostile work environment, or terminating them. If an employee can prove that employees of a different race who perform similar work were treated more favorably, then that employee may have a race discrimination claim. Title VII only applies to employers who have fifteen or more employees. If an employee is successful on a race discrimination claim, she may potentially recover lost wages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs. Title VII also provides for equitable relief such as reinstatement. Race claims account for most of the charges received by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Oftentimes, race discrimination claims can be brought with discrimination claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, which has a four year statute of limitations.

Sex Discrimination

Title VII of the United States Code prohibits employers from discriminating against an individual on account of their gender. For instance, if a woman can prove that she has been consistently performing well, but her male counterparts are always being promoted above her, she may have an actionable sex discrimination claim for failure to promote. Other gender discrimination claims may include situations such as termination or a demotion. What may be considered as a subset of sex discrimination claims is pregnancy discrimination. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits an employer from taking adverse action against a woman because she is pregnant or has a pregnancy-related condition. Depending upon the facts of the case, a successful Plaintiff may recover lost wages, compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees and costs. Like race discrimination claims, a federal claim can only be brought where the employer employs 15 or more people.

Sexual Harassment

Title VII of the United States Code protects employees from unwanted sexual demands, advances and gestures from a supervisor or co-worker. There are two types of sexual harassment: Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment.

Quid Pro Quo sexual harassment occurs when an employer or supervisor demands sexual favors in exchange for raises, promotions, or other perks, or threatens an employee for failure to provide sexual favors. The employee must show that the sexual advances are unwanted. If an employee reluctantly provides sexual favors in order to keep her job, she may still have an actionable claim of sexual harassment.

Hostile Environment sexual harassment occurs when the work environment is hostile because of sexual comments, jokes, and banter or other acts of an offensive sexual nature, including physical touching. Employers will often attempt to defend these cases either arguing that the employee welcomed the offensive conduct, or that the conduct was not sufficiently pervasive in the workplace to offend the employee or a reasonable person. Sometimes the employer may be able to argue that it had a sexual harassment policy in place, and that the employee did not follow it after she was harassed. Thus, it is important to find out if your employer has such a policy and make a diligent attempt to report the claim.

If successful, a Plaintiff may recover lost wages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs. In order for a Plaintiff to bring either a Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment or Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment claim, the employer must employ 15 or more individuals.

Age Discrimination Claims

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee who is over 40 years old. Compared to some other federal employment claims such as sex discrimination claims which requires the employer to have at least 15 employees before an action can be brought, under the ADEA the employer must have at least 20 people on the payroll before such a claim can be initiated. Age claims are also unique in that the type of damages that an employee can recover are limited to lost and possibly future wages, liquidated damages (which, if awarded, doubles the amount of the back pay), and attorneys’ fees and costs. Juries are often sympathetic to employees bringing age discrimination claims. While age discrimination claims at an earlier time were limited to those Plaintiffs who were younger than 70, there is now no age limit which prohibits an individual from bringing an age discrimination claim.

Family and Medical Leave Act Claims

The Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, allows employees who have been employed for at least one year, to take up to 12 weeks of medical leave for a serious health condition for himself or a family member. This federal law only applies to companies that employee at least 50 people within 75 miles of each other. The employer may require the employee to first use a combination of paid and unpaid leave. An employee may choose to take the entire 12 weeks at one time, or may seek to exercise intermittent leave. While on FMLA, the employer must hold the employee’s job open, or offer the employee a comparable position upon her return. If successful in an FMLA action, an employee may recover lost wages, liquidated damages (which, if awarded, doubles the amount of the back pay), and attorneys’ fees and costs.

Federal Retaliation Claims

Most federal employment claims prohibit an employer from taking adverse action against an employee because he openly complained of being discriminated against or sexually harassed. These claims can be brought with the underlying claims of discrimination or sexual harassment. For an employee to be successful on a retaliation claim, she must show that she complained of being discriminated against or sexually harassed; that the employer took an “adverse action” against her, or in other words changed the terms and conditions of her employment for the worse; and that a short time occurred between the time of the complaint and the adverse action. Usually, these claims are more successful compared to the underlying discrimination claims. An employee may be able to recover compensatory damages, punitive damages, as well as any lost wages.

Retaliatory Discharge Claims

Illinois state law prohibits an employer from retaliating and discharging an employee for engaging in protected activity. Typically, this involves an employee filing a worker’s compensation case and being fired for doing so. While the Illinois courts have been reluctant to expand liability for these claims, similar cases can be brought, for example, where an employee complains to the employer about violating a state law, or the employee brings a complaint to OSHA regarding a safety violation and loses his job. A successful plaintiff may recover damages for back pay, front pay, and compensatory damages. Unlike many federal employment claims, a discharged employee may bring a claim against the employer regardless of the number of employees on the payroll.

Wage and Hour Claims

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that non-exempt employees receive overtime pay equal to one and one half times their regular hourly pay for any hours worked over 40 in a week. An employer may require employees to work overtime hours, but the employer must compensate the employee.

Many employers try to avoid paying overtime by simply paying their employees a salary, even though the employees are working more than 40 hours in a week. In such cases, the employees may still be entitled to overtime pay, if they are considered non-exempt. Usually, executives, professionals and certain administrative jobs are considered exempt from overtime pay. To determine whether someone is exempt, you must analyze the employee’s job duties.

Overtime pay that has not been paid can still be collected up to two years from the date the pay was earned, and up to three years if the employer intentionally did not pay the employee overtime. In addition, where the employer’s failure to pay overtime is intentional, the employer can be required to pay an additional amount of money equal to the amount owed, a sum known as liquidated damages.

The overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) only apply to companies whose gross revenues exceed $500,000. An employee may bring a claim against the company, assuming this threshold is met, regardless of the number of employees that the company employs. An employee may also have a claim under Illinois’ Wage Payment and Collection Act if they have not been paid all of their wages.

Breach of Contract Claims

Most employees are “employees at will,” meaning that an employer can hire or fire them for any reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all. In this situation, an employee may have no recourse against their employer. In certain circumstances, the employee may have negotiated a written or oral contract with their employer guaranteeing them either certain compensation or a certain period of employment. If the employer does not live up to the terms of the contract, the employee may have a claim under state law. An employee’s damages might be the amount of salary remaining on the balance of the contract, less any wages that the employee earned at subsequent employment.

Also, many employees are given handbooks or manuals at the outset of their employment. Under certain conditions, an employee handbook can be considered a contract of employment. In determining whether an employee has any contractual rights under this document, the employment lawyer must focus on the language of the manual. Oftentimes, the employer will include disclaimer language in the handbook, stating that the document should not be relied upon as a contract of employment. This language in and of itself will not necessarily let the employer off the hook.

For more information, contact Gene Hollander today to discuss your possible claim with an employment law trial lawyer who has more than 20 years of experience.