October 6, 2012

Chicago Sexual Harassment By College Professors

So you are attending college in Chicago and classes seem to be going well. The professor seems very helpful and often asks you to discuss various things after class. You thought it was a little odd but really didn't think much about out. But now the professor is asking you out on a date and you thank him but say no. Now your grades seem to be affected and you don't know what to do. Well in Illinois you have protection from sexual harassment while you are attending a college or university. So what should you do and how best should you proceed?

Well you should contact a good employment lawyer and file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human RIghts ("IDHR"). The reason you should do this at once is because there are strict time limits for filing and sometimes colleges will drag an investigation out past the statute of limitations period. You could get money for the tuition you paid, money for emotional distress, attorney fees and money to additionally make you whole. Remember that you don't have to take sexual harassment from a college professor in Chicago.

October 3, 2012

Three Former Attorney's Receive $550,000 To Settle A Retaliation Lawsuit

Three former Knox County assistant state’s attorneys received $550,000 to settle their retaliation lawsuits. The lawsuits were a result of what they claim was retaliation and wrongful termination at the hands of State’s Attorney John Pepmeyer and the county. The three attorneys, Dean Stone, Mike Kraycinovich and Tracy Jones, filed the wrongful discharge and retaliation claims in state and federal court and before the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") against Pepmeyer and the county.

The attorneys who reported allegations of Pepmeyer’s sexual harassment of three female secretaries were fired a short time after they reported the conduct. Pepmeyer said he fired the attorneys because of their tardiness, to list one reason. Of course this reason turned out to be a pretext for the firings. The settlement amount should be a clear indication of that. To show you how much it cost to defend a sexual harassment or retaliation lawsuit, the county spent over $464,000 to date to defend the lawsuit and even more to settle bringing the total cost to $1 million.

“They didn’t show up for work. I was left without any help.” said Pepmeyer
September 28, 2012

What Damages Can You Be Awarded In A Sexual Harassment Case

So my Chicago office gets calls all the time from people who want to know what damages they can recover if they file a sexual harassment case. Well part of the answer will depend on where the sexual harassment case is filed. If you are employed in Chicago you have three choices for filing. You can file with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") or the Chicago Commission on Human Relations ("CCHR"). So which agency should you file your case with? Well it will be fact specific but here are some generalizations. As an aside if you file with the IDHR, they automatically cross file with the EEOC so in essence you get a two for one.

Filing with the CCHR gives you something that you can't get from either the IDHR or EEOC--punitive damages. Punitive damages are monies that are given to punish a company or person for the conduct. This type of damage is most suited where the conduct was so egregious that it would shock a normal reasonable person. So for example if the boss called you into his office and pulled out his penis, that would be such behavior. And if the company knew about it and did not take any action, this would raise the amount of money you may get. Otherwise, the IDHR and EEOC have similar forms of damage--except with the EEOC you can get statutory damages based on the number of employees. A good employment attorney can go through this information with you.

September 22, 2012

How Long Do Sexual Harassment Cases Take

A question my Chicago office gets often is about the length of time it takes for a sexual harassment case. Most people don't realize how long discrimination cases can take from start to finish. If a case is filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") it will take roughly a year from the IDHR to finish its' investigation and issue a finding of either substantial evidence or lack thereof. If there is a finding of substantial evidence you can then file with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") for trial in front of an administrative law judge. If there is a lack of substantial evidence you can file a lawsuit in the local circuit court and ask for a jury trial or have your case hear by a judge.

So how long does it take at the IHRC or in court? It can take another year or longer to get to trial. And after trial at the IHRC the judge can take a few years to issue the decision. What this means is that from the time you first file until you get a ruling from the judge three or four years could pass. This is a reason why it is important for you to try and settle cases when you have a chance to.

September 15, 2012

When Is Quitting A Constructive Discharge In Chicago

So you are at work and the boss is engaging in sexual harassment. You complain to human resources and even tell the boss to stop. Nothing you do seems to stop his behavior and you are stressed out. What should you do at this point? Because the boss is doing the sexual harassment there is strict liability on the company and on the boss. If it were just a co-worker harassing you, the company does not have liability until you let them know about the harassment and they have a chance to correct it. In the example above you are in a tough spot. You have already put the company on notice and asked the boss to stop--so now what?

If the harassment gets so severe that you can no longer go into work you can quit. If you quit under these circumstances you can claim a constructive discharge. What this allows you to do is file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") for discrimination based on sexual harassment and constructive discharge. The standard for determining constructive discharge is what a reasonable person would do in similar circumstances. And don't forget if you quit work because of discrimination you can file for unemployment benefits with the Illinois Department of Employment Security ("IDES"). Whether you actually collect unemployment benefits will be determined by IDES but at least file.

September 9, 2012

When Is Quitting A Constructive Discharge In Chicago

Generally if you quit your job you are not entitled to collect unemployment benefits or otherwise claim you were fired. However, depending on the circumstances, you may be entitled to collect unemployment even if you quit your job. Additionally, you may have a claim with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). Under the law in Illinois if you complain about discrimination or are subjected to discrimination while an employee at work you have guaranteed rights. If the discrimination gets to a point where any reasonable employee would quit, the quitting is called a constructive discharge. And as a constructive discharge it is treated as a firing not for misconduct.

If you believe you are in such a situation and you quit immediately file for unemployment benefits with the Illinois Department of Employment Security ("IDES"). At the same time you can file a complaint with the IDHR and ask for lost wages, attorney fees, and money for emotional distress. Employment lawyers who concentrate on these types of cases can go through the facts of your situation and determine the best course of action. Like any other case, you need some evidence to prove your case. Always save emails, text message and other evidence that you may have of the discrimination. Remember that there are employment rights in Illinois that you have as an employee.

September 8, 2012

Do Sexual Jokes Create A Hostile Work Environment?

My Chicago office gets calls about employees who are getting sexual jokes via email or in person. One question I get often is does this create a hostile work environment in Illinois? Under the Illinois Human Rights Act ("Act") or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, if the conduct rises to a certain level it may be a hostile work environment. So what is the certain level? Well that is very fact specific and a review of your particular case would be required. Usually one or two comments or jokes are not going to rise to that level.

However, if the comments don't stop and interfere with your job, you could file a sexual harassment complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). There are two types of sexual harassment complaints one based on quid quo pro and one based on the creation of a hostile work environment. This type would be the latter. The main point is that you need to have your facts reviewed and you need to do this in a timely fashion. If you wait too long your case will be lost. As an employee in Illinois you have certain rights that your employer can't take away from you.

September 7, 2012

Sexual Harassment In Chicago

The workforce in Chicago is diverse and under a great deal of stress due to the struggling economy. One thing that seems to be on the rise is the amount of sexual harassment that is taking place. So what is sexual harassment and what can you do about it if it happens to you? Sexual harassment is any unwanted sexual advance, sexual comments or other sexual conduct. Now one sexual comment by itself will probably not rise to the level of sexual harassment. However, that determination has to be made on a case-by-case basis. A good employment lawyer can listen to your facts and give you a better idea if what happened to you is sexual harassment.

If it is determined that the conduct rises to the level of sexual harassment you can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). By filing with the IDHR, you will also have the complaint cross-filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). This allows you to pursue your claim in the state or federal system. As far as damages are concerned you can ask for lost wages, attorney fees, money for emotional distress and any medical bills paid. Additionally, the company may have to hold special training on discrimination and sexual harassment for all employees. You have rights while being employed in Chicago, make sure you protect them.

September 3, 2012

Hostile Work Environments In Naperville Illinois

The work is demanding and you put in long hours but that isn't the problem. Your boss is constantly asking you personal questions and he calls you late at night. You know he wants a relationship with you-and he is married. Obviously he wants a sexual relationship with you. So what are your options? You are afraid if you report the conduct to human resources he will retaliate against you and you need the job. Do you have a claim or lawsuit? The short answer is yes you do. In Illinois this conduct would create a hostile work environment and would be the grounds for a sexual harassment complaint.

You would be able to file the sexual harassment complaint with either the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). If you file with the IDHR they will automatically cross-file with the EEOC so that is your best bet. This gives you multiple options. You will be able to file in state court, federal court or possibly proceed at the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC"). The important point is to get the best evidence of the sexual harassment and keep it. This would be text messages, voice messages, emails and if the conduct occurs in front of other employees their names. You could also send the employee an email after the conduct occurs and ask them to comment on what they just saw. Then print out the response and keep it in the safe place.

September 2, 2012

What Happens When You Quit Your Job Because Of Sexual Harassment

So my Chicago office gets many calls from people who are the victim of sexual harassment at work. Usually it is the boss or supervisor that is doing the harassment. It gets so bad that they go into therapy and end up on medication. They also don't want to continue going into work. So where do they stand in a situation like this? Well if things get so bad that a reasonable person would quit it is called a constructive discharge and treated as a termination in the legal sense. I would tell the person to file for unemployment benefits at once.

In the fact pattern above you could file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") based on sexual harassment and constructive discharge. This would allow you to attempt to get damages which would include lost wages, lost benefits, attorney fees, money for anxiety, medical expenses and you could even ask to be reinstated if you so choose. The important point is to speak with an experienced employment attorney who concentrates on sexual harassment cases. There is a short window of time for filing and it is important to get and protect evidence prior to filing.

September 1, 2012

Is The Boss Sending You Sexual Jokes Via Email A Hostile Work Environment in Chicago?

So your boss keeps sending you emails which contain sexual jokes. Sometimes the emails are just jokes and sometimes they have pictures of women that are naked or semi-naked. Sometimes the pictures are women in sexual acts. So is this sexual harassment in Chicago? The short answer is yes. This type of activity would create a hostile work environment and you could file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). It would be very important that you save the emails. I would suggest printing them out and also forwarding them to your own personal email account so you can save the originals in electronic form.

This evidence is going to make or break your case. If you don't keep the emails you won't have a case for the most part unless the harassing person admits to sending the email to you. Additionally, if the boss or supervisor is sending the emails there is strict liability on the company. If it is just a co-worker you must report the conduct to the employer before the employer will have liability. An experienced employment lawyer can explain all of this to you.

August 31, 2012

Springfield Illinois Constructive Discharge Cases

I have two offices in the state of Illinois and my downstate office gets calls from the Springfield area asking to explain a constructive discharge. The Illinois Human Rights Act ("Act") governs the rights of employees in Illinois relative to discrimination. Under the Act, an employee cannot be subjected to discrimination. A constructive discharge occurs when an employee is subjected to discrimination in the workplace and the hostile work environment it creates is such that a reasonable person would not longer tolerate it and quits. For the purpose of a lawsuit it is treated as a termination. I recommend if this happens you immediately file with the Illinois Department of Employment Security ("IDES") for unemployment benefits.

So what remedies are available if you quit and call it a constructive discharge? First you would file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). If you are successful with the IDHR, your case will move to the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") or you can elect to take your case to the local circuit court. An experienced employment lawyer can explain which would be best in your particular case. There are a number of factors involved in deciding where to file. The most important point is that you save as much evidence as possible of the discrimination. Text messages, voice mails, and emails are usually the best form of evidence. In some cases, other employees can be witnesses but remember they may not wish to get involved for fear of losing their job.

August 27, 2012

Is The Boss Yelling At You A Hostile Work Environment In Chicago

My Chicago office gets more calls about this than anything. The employee is hard at work and the boss is constantly yelling at her. It gets to the point where the employee is shaking and can't focus. The employee calls my Chicago office and thinks they are in a hostile work environment and they want to file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). So the question is can they file with the IDHR based on the yelling by the boss? The short answer is no. There is no general law in Illinois that covers yelling. At one time there was an attempt by the state legislature to pass a bullying law but that effort failed.

In order to have a hostile work environment in Illinois there needs to be some underlying discrmiination. So for example if the boss is nice to all the men and just yells at women, then perhaps there is a gender discrimination case and the conduct by the boss creates a hostile work environment for just women. These types of issues are fact based and a consultation is usuallly required to determine if there is a discrimination case. The important point to remember is you would first have to bring this to the attention of human resources and let them know you believe as a female you are being singled out. A good employment lawyer can answer your questions and evaluate your potential case.

August 26, 2012

Damages In Chicago Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

So you are working in downtown Chicago and the boss is now engaging in sexual harassment. He keeps asking you to meet him for drinks after work and is flirting with you. You are convinced that he wants a sexual relationship with you and you don't want to engage in a relationship with him. What are your options? And more importantly what can you claim for damages if you file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR")? The first option is to contact an aggressive employment lawyer who concentrates on sexual harassment cases. Once you are comfortable with your employment lawyer the next step is to file with the IDHR.

As far as damages are concerned you can get the following. You can get lost wages which are the actual wages you lost as a result of any negative job action. This can include money if you were demoted, fired or if you quit because you couldn't take the sexual harassment any longer. If you do quit because of the harassment it is referred to as a constructive discharge. One thing to keep in mind is you have to offset any lost wages by income you are receiving from a new job or unemployment. So if you are out of work for six months and lost $24,000 in wages but collected $6,000 in unemployment during that time, your lost wage damage would be $18,000. You can also get money for loss of benefits, lost opportunity at promotion and therefore higher wages, attorney fees and money for emotional distress. It is always a good idea to calculate your potential lost wage damage before taking any action.

August 24, 2012

In Chicago What Is The Difference Between Constructive Discharge and Retaliation

My Chicago office gets this question often. What is the difference between constructive discharge and retaliation. Well for the purposes of this examples lets utilize a sexual harassment case. So your boss is engaging in sexual harassment and you are rejecting his advances. You told him on more than one occasion that you don't wish to go out on a date with him. He keeps pestering you and now has cut your work hours or demoted you. These would both be examples of retaliation. Basically, any negative job action is considered a retaliation.

On the other hand if the boss just keeps asking you out and otherwise sexually harassing you, but not taking a negative job action against you what is that called? Well it is just sexual harassment. But lets say the sexual harassment is getting so bad that you can't come into work anymore and be around it so you quit. That is called a constructive discharge and for the purposes of the law it is treated as a firing for rejecting the sexual harassment. So both retaliation and constructive discharge are actionable in Illinois and can result in a complaint being filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR").

August 23, 2012

Why File At The Chicago Commission On Human Relations

So why should you file your sexual harassment complaint at the Chicago Commission on Human Relations ("CCHR")? Well the main reason to file with the CCHR is they can award punitive damages. If you file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), they can't award punitive damages. This could be an important point if your case doesn't have a great deal of actual lost wage damage.

So for example if the boss is doing something very horrible like making you look at nasty porn and sending you nasty text messages but the result is not a loss of wages, your best bet may be to seek punitive damages. Additionally, many employment attorneys don't practice in front of the CCHR and therefore they may wish to settle the case quickly and not have to learn as they go. Remember that each case is different and it is important to discuss your facts with an experienced employment lawyer.

August 21, 2012

Gender Discrimination In Chicago

There is a term called the glass ceiling that needs to be discussed before we talk about discrimination against females in general. So if you look at the top management of most large companies you will see mostly white males. Even though females make up half of the population, they don't make up half of all top management positions. This lack of mobility to the top is called the glass ceiling. This my be result in a gender discrimination lawsuit against the company if it happens to you. Sometimes it is enough to show you are qualified or over qualified and the company only promotes men to prove gender discrimination in Chicago.

So what other type of evidence would be required in Chicago to prove you are the victim of gender discrimination? Well comments that men make about females that are negative would be an example. Also if the company is promoting less qualified men or only posting job's in such a way that only men apply and get them. The important point is to speak with an experienced litigation attorney who concentrates on employment law. The attorney will be able to discuss your facts and determine if there is a case. IF there is it can be filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and they will automatically cross file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").

August 18, 2012

Hiring A Lawyer For The Illinois Human Rights Commission

So you filed a sexual harassment or other type of discrimination case at the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and they found substantial evidence. Now your case is at the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC"). What should you do to help ensure you will be successful. Well, first remember that the company wasn't required to hire an attorney at the IDHR but the company is required to have a lawyer at the IHRC. What this means is you will be at a disadvantage if you go it alone.

Most employment lawyers will take a good case at the IHRC on contingency fee basis which means you won't have to put money up front to hire the lawyer. This will make it easier for you to hire a lawyer and have your employment rights protected. The IHRC can be a tricky place for lawyers so trying to go it alone is difficult and unnecessary. Why risk having your important employment case dismissed because you don't understand complicated discovery requests or because you answer the questions incorrectly. Your case made it this far, be smart and seek a good experienced employment lawyer.

August 15, 2012

Chicago Constructive Discharge Case Information

This short article is about constructive discharge cases in Chicago and will also apply to the entire state of Illinois. So what is a constructive discharge? Well under the law, a constructive discharge is treated the same as a termination of employment. The only difference is the employee quit and in affect discharges herself. Now in order to qualify your quitting as a constructive discharge, several things have to take place. First you have to have some sort of discrimination directed at you while at work. So for example if your boss is engaging in sexual harassment and hounding you for sex that would be discrimination under the Illinois Human Rights Act ("Act").

If the discrimination gets so bad that no reasonable person would continue working under that type of situation than quitting would be appropriate. This is usually referred to as a hostile work environment. In that case, the quitting could be called a constructive discharge. It is important to point out that the conduct has to be of a level that no reasonable person would remain employed. Generally, the employee would need to report the sexual harassment to human resources before quitting. Of course each case is different and a special determination would be made on the specific facts of each case. If you quit your job because of discrimination you can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and claim a constructive discharge.

August 13, 2012

Is A Boss Texting Sexual Messages A Hostile Work Environment In Chicago?

So my Chicago offices seems to be getting more and more calls from people who are getting sexual text messages from their boss. One of the first questions they ask me is what can they do? Well, in Illinois there is strict liability on the company if the boss is sending you sexy text messages because that would constitute sexual harassment. In Chicago this seems to be occurring at a high rate. Usually the boss is also trying to engage in a sexual relationship with the employee as well. An important point is for you to save the text messages and emails. Even if you delete the the text messages there is special software available that will allow my office to retrieve the deleted text messages.

What also happens is this conduct creates a hostile work environment for the employee and perhaps other employees. As you can imagine the poor person has to go into work every day and work with the same boss that is sending inappropriate text messages and is trying to put the moves of her. And of course the employee will feel like her job is on the line if she isn't at least nice to the boss even though she probably wants to hit him. The most important thing you can do is hire a good employment lawyer and file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and have it cross-filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). This keeps both your state and federal options open.

Continue reading "Is A Boss Texting Sexual Messages A Hostile Work Environment In Chicago?" »

August 12, 2012

Chicago Options For Sexual Harassment Victims

Well you have three options if you are the victim of sexual harassment in Chicago. First you can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). Or you could file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Lastly, you could file with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations ("CCHR"). I am going to discuss which of the three will give you the best opportunity to receive the maximum for your case. In order to do that I would of course need to know the facts of your case. So I will just give generalizations about what are the good and bad points of each.

Let's start with the IDHR. The good thing about filing with the IDHR is they will automatically file with the EEOC. The only time the IDHR does not cross-file with the EEOC is if the discrimination falls under the Illinois Human Rights Act and not Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. So filing with the IDHR gives you both and therefore it's a great option. So given that why would you file with the CCHR. Well the CCHR gives you something that the other two don't. With the CCHR you can ask for punitive damages. This is great in cases where there aren't a large amount of actual damages or the sexual harassment is so horrible that a large award my be necessary to stop this type of conduct from occurring in the future. One thing to keep in mind is that the IDHR must complete its investigation within 365 days so for a quick resolution that may be the best route.

August 11, 2012

Chicago Sexual Harassment Cases Involving Retaliation

The city of Chicago can be a beautiful place and also for some at work a place of horror. There seems to be an increasing number of bosses that believe they can prey upon their employees and engage in conduct which amounts to sexual harassment. As if were not bad enough, the bosses then engage in retaliation if the employee doesn't have sex or reports the behavior. This of course creates a hostile work environment for not only the employee being harassed but also other employees. Can you imagine what kind of signal this sends to the other employees? Have sex with me or you are going to get fired.

So what can you do when this happens to you in Chicago? The good news is you have multiple options. I prefer to file with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") for two reasons. First they cross-file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). And second, they are mandated by law to complete an investigation within one-year. This provides leverage because the other side will have to file a verified response and therefore their position will be locked in.

And don't forget that the retaliation claim is separate from the sexual harassment claim so you have multiple options regarding that claim. The important factor in all of this is your evidence. It is very important that you keep all emails and text messages. These are generally what will be utilized to prove your case. Even if you don't have them, phone logs to be utilized to show a pattern of conduct that indicates sexual harassment. For example if the boss is calling you late at night and on weekends and he isn't calling anyone else during those times. And lastly, make sure you call an good aggressive employment attorney because you can bet the other side will have an attorney protecting their rights.

August 6, 2012

Morningside House Settles Religious Discrimination Case For $25,000

In an unusual case, Morningside House pays $25,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit. This lawsuit was the result of a Muslin not removing her hijab and therefore not getting hired for the job. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). This could have also been a lawsuit involving national origin discrimination because of the what company did, but because the hijab is part of a religious practice, it fell under religious discrimination. In Illinois you could also file with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") for both national origin and religious discrimination.

According to published accounts the director of health and wellness asked Khadijah Salim if she would be willing to remove her hijab if she were hired. The director expressed concerns that if she were hired, the hijab may interfere with her ability to work as a certified nursing assistant. However, Salim said she had worn her hijab throughout her nursing training, which included working in the operating room, and it had never interfered with her ability to perform her duties. This would indicate that there wasn't a problem with wearing the hijab. As you can guess she wasn't hired and the discrimination lawsuit was filed. It seems to me there was a different issue involving her being a Muslim.

“In this case, there was no undue hardship to the employer -- just an apparent overreaction to a reasonable request because of myths and stereotypes about a religion,” said EEOC Attorney Debra M. Lawrence.
August 1, 2012

Hostile Work Environments In Chicago

This question comes into my Chicago office all the time. You are working in an office in downtown Chicago and the office is run like a fraternity house. People are looking at porn, and always telling sexual jokes. To make matters worse, the bosses are always trying to ask employees out and have sex with them. Do you have legal protection under the law? Yes you do. This type of office would create a hostile work environment for all employees working in it. There would also be a sexual harassment claim because of the sexual talk, porn and the bosses asking employees out on dates and trying to have sex with them.

So what should you do about it? Contact a veteran employment lawyer and file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR will cross-file with its federal counterpart the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). This allows you to keep both state and federal options open. It is my experience that if there is a large company involved the federal option will be best. The reason is there are larger statutory amounts that are available and if there are over 500 employees you can seek $300,000 in statutory damages. This will put more pressure on the company. The most important thing is to protect yourself and speak with a Chicago employment lawyer.

July 29, 2012

Retaliation By Employer In Chicago For Not Going Out With The Boss

You are at work doing a great job and the boss keeps asking you out. He is constantly at your desk and spends way too much time in your business. He is married and you know he only wants one thing--sex. This by itself is sexual harassment and you can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and they will cross-file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). But there is more. What is going to happen in most cases is the boss is going to want to get rid of you. That's right. He is going to try and get you fired. Why you say? Because you aren't going to sleep with him and he is afraid you will spill the beans about him at work.

Additionally, he wants to hire someone else who may speak with him. The boss making up reasons to fire you is called retaliation. It is retaliation because you are rejecting the sexual advances. If you don't file with the IDHR you will run the risk of missing the window for filing. It is very important that you protect your rights and don't delay. My Chicago office sees this all the time. People wait too long and they can't protect themselves. Call an employment lawyer and learn your employment rights.

July 25, 2012

Sexual Harassment By A Former Supervisor

So you are in Chicago and your supervisor is engaging in sexual harassment. You can't really say anything because you are afraid you are going to be punished if you do. The legal term is called retaliation. So in this case you would have a cause of action against the company because the supervisor engaging in sexual harassment transfers liability onto the company. However, what happens if the supervisor gets a promotion and still harasses you? Is there strict liability on the company at this point? The answer is yes. You should immediately call a good employment attorney and take the next step.

The next step would be to file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and as long as the new harassment is within 180 days you can go as far back as you want because it is continuing harassment. Also the IDHR will cross-file the complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and this keeps your federal options open. It is very important to have proof and to save text messages and emails as your case will live or die based on this. You have to remember that the supervisor is probably going to claim you are just friends and he is being nice and not harassing you. This is where his own words on the text messages and emails will come back to haunt him. Remember, you don't have to be the victim of predators at work. You have legal rights.

July 16, 2012

Chicago Constructive Discharge Lawsuits

So the work atmosphere at your Chicago workplace isn't what you bargained for. The boss keeps making comments that make it clear he doesn't like female workers. The men get all the best job assignments and his negative comments toward females doesn't stop. You report this to human resources and nothing happens. What are your legal options and what should you do? Well if it gets to the point that you can no longer go into work because of the actions of your boss, you could quit. In Illinois this is called a constructive discharge. For the purposes of employment a constructive discharge is treated as a termination. If you do quit, file for unemployment and let the government make the determination as to whether you can collect or not.

After you quit, contact a good employment lawyer and file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR is tasked with investigating complaints of discrimination. Once you file with the IDHR, and they investigate the complaint and upon a finding of substantial evidence you can file with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") for trial in front of an administrative law judge. The IHRC is where you can be awarded money for lost wages, emotional distress and attorney fees. It is important that you keep track of your lost wages and places you look for work. The important point is to protect your rights and not let the company get away with the discriminatory conduct.

July 14, 2012

Illinois Sexual Orientation Discrimination Lawsuits

So you are gay and feel that your manager is treating you different based on your sexual orientation. What if anything can you do? Well first, the treatment must be of a substantial manner and not something that is trivial. So if you were passed over for promotion based on your sexual orientation, you could file a complaint of discrimination based on sexual orientation with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR would conduct an investigation and if they find substantial evidence, you could file a complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") for trial.

A few important points prior to filing your complaint with the IDHR. First, make sure you secure as much evidence of the discrimination as possible. The evidence may be text messages, emails, or co-workers who may have witnessed any comments. So if your boss makes reference to your sexual orientation and makes derogatory comments those would be good examples of evidence that would help your case. Another important point is to make sure you are doing a good job at work and have good attendance. Don't give the company a reason to discipline or fire you. The bottom line is that you have legal protection if you are gay and the company is discriminating against you.

July 13, 2012

Joliet Illinois Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

You are working at a company in Joliet Illinois and doing your best to perform well. The problem is your male supervisor is trying to ask you out on dates and he makes it clear that he wants a sexual relationship with you. What if anything can and should you do? Well if the supervisor is doing it, there is strict liability on the company. If it is another employee you must notify the company and give them a chance to remedy the situation before there will be liability on the company. So in the example above, you should hire a good employment lawyer and file a sexual harassment complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR").

The IDHR will cross-file the complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). This gives you both state and federal options going forward. If you are successful at the IDHR you will have a right to have your sexual harassment case heard by an administrative law judge at the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC"). The judge may award you lost wages, money for emotional distress and attorney fees. It is very important that you protect your employment rights and don't let the supervisor or company get away with forcing you to endure sexual harassment in the workplace.

July 11, 2012

Chicago Retaliation Cases At the Illinois Department Of Human Rights

So you are at work in downtown Chicago and you witness some type of discrimination at work and report it to management. You think that this makes you a good employee and you are following company policy. But ever since you reported the discrimination management has been nit-picking your work performance. In fact you just recently received a negative job performance and can't understand why. The reason you finally figure out is because you reported the discrimination and now the company is engaging in retaliation. What should you do? Do you have any rights in Illinois? The answer is yes and here is what you should do

Call a good employment lawyer and file a complaint of retaliation with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR is mandated by state law to complete an investigation of your complaint within one-year. The IDHR will also cross-file your complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). This will give you the best level of protection and allow you to seek damages for lost wages, lost benefits, future loss of wages, attorney fees and money for emotional distress. The important point is to act fast as in Chicago and the rest of Illinois, you only have 180 days from the date of the discrimination to file with the IDHR.

July 10, 2012

Chicago EEOC Right To Sue Letter

So you filed a sexual harassment case with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and you want to know what is next. Well they will conduct an investigation at some point. The key words being some point. They don't exactly drop what they are doing and start the investigation. In my opinion if you want to have the case investigated file with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") as they are mandated by law to complete an investigation within 365 days. And by the way if you filed with the IDHR they will cross-file with the EEOC so you get a two for one. Basically the EEOC is just the federal version of the IDHR.

So back to the EEOC. One reason to file with the EEOC is if you want to file a lawsuit in federal court. At any time after you file with the EEOC you can request a right to sue letter. The request must be made in writing and once received the EEOC will cease to investigate your case, will close out their file and issue a right to sue letter. The letter will give you 90 days from the date it was issued to file a lawsuit. If you file on the 91st day your case will get dismissed so you must file within 90 days. Federal court can be very tricky and if you try and file and proceed with a federal lawsuit on your own, you are going to have problems. If you have a good case, you won't have a problem finding a good employment attorney.

July 9, 2012

Chicago Sexual Orientation Discrimination

The tight job market is making work tough on everyone and employers seem to be flexing their muscle and making things hard on employees. My Chicago office is seeing an increase in the discrimination cases based on sexual orientation. There are probably several reasons for this increase. First more people are open about their sexual orientation and therefore there are more opportunities to become the victim of discrimination. Second the employers don't seem to be giving the proper training to their employees about what not to say or do regarding someones sexual orientation. Under the Illniois Human Rights Act ("Act") it is a violation of the law to single someone out based on their sexual orientation.

If you believe you are being treated different at work based on your sexual orientation, you can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR will investigate the complaint and within one-year file a report finding either substantial evidence of the discrimination or lack of substantial evidence. If there is substantial evidence you would have the right to file a complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") for trial. You could also file a complaint directly with the local circuit court. If there is a finding of lack of substantial evidence you can file directly with the local circuit court or ask the IHRC review the finding of the IDHR. The main point is there are options available for you and if you believe you are the victim of discrimination contact an seasoned employment attorney.

July 8, 2012

Chicago Constructive Discharge Cases

The phone seems to ring more and more each week in my Chicago office regarding what constitutes a constructive discharge in Illinois. Under the Illinois Human Rights Act ("Act"), an employee is considered to be constructively discharged if the workplace atmosphere is so hostile based on discrimination that any reasonable person would quit. And this quitting is treated the same as a firing under the law. Another words, you have a separate claim of discrimination based on the constructive discharge.

So what do you do if this happens to you? You have a legal right to file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR will investigate your claim of discrimination on your behalf. However, it is a good idea to have an attorney working for you to make sure the IDHR does a good job. There are very tricky areas of the law that many people are not aware of and that the IDHR investigators overlook. When this happens, your rights and your case could be affected. It is very important for you to protect your rights and seek sound legal advice on your employment related discrimination case.

June 11, 2012

Finding Substantial Evidence In A Sexual Harassment Case

My Chicago office gets many calls about what is required for the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") to get to a finding of substantial evidence in a sexual harassment case. Well the short answer is it depends on who your investigator is. All investigators are suppose to follow the Cooper v. Salazar injunction but many don't. I am not sure why but it is what it is. Under Cooper v. Salazar, the investigator cannot make a credibility determination of the witnesses. That means if you said it happened it happened. But sadly many investigators don't do this.

This shows how important it is to have an experienced employment attorney at your side. You need someone who can point out during a request for review how incorrect the lack of substantial evidence was. Sexual harassment cases usuallly turn on the credibility of the witness and therefore it is very important for you to make sure you have someone with experience on your side.

June 1, 2012

Is Flirting At Work Sexual Harassment?

So my Chicago office has been getting inquiries about whether or not flirting at work is sexual harassment in Illinois. They answer is maybe. First it would depend on who is doing the flirting. If your boss if flirting with you there is strict liability on the company. The reason is simple. The boss has too much power over you and it would put you in a position of either flirting back to satisfy him or to risk not flirting back and then facing his rath from being rejected. Either way, none of this is work related and it would constitute sexual harassment in Illinois in my opinion. On the other hand if it is a co-worker and you are flirting back and forth, that would not be sexual harassment because it would not be unwanted. If it is a co-worker and you don't flirt back and forth, then the company would only have liability once your tell the company and they fail to take any corrective action.

So what are you suppose to do if this happens? Call my office and we will file a complaint of sexual harassment with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR will investigate the complaint and if they find substantial evidence of the sexual harassment they will issue a report and allow us to file directly with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") for trial. This is where you can be awarded many things including lost wages, attorney fees, and money for emotional distress and other things.

May 29, 2012

Chicago Sexual Harassment Lawsuits By Secretaries

My Chicago offices gets many calls from administrative assistants and secretaries who are subjected to sexual harassment by their bosses. They usually want to know what their rights are and what they can do. First, try and gather as much evidence as possible regarding the sexual harassment. This would include text messages, voice messages and emails. Also, if there are witnesses to the incidents, make a note of the persons name, the date and what occurred. If you don't make a note it will be hard to recall the exact details which could hurt your case. So if you do all of this and you have some evidence what should you do next?

The short answer is call my Chicago office and we can discuss the facts and then file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (""IDHR"). The IDHR is mandated under law to complete an investigation into any discrimination within one-year. This allows the case to move quickly through the system and usually results in settlement during that time. If the case isn't settled, and substantial evidence is found, we can file for trial at the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC"). This allows for maximum pressure on the other side to settle the case.

May 21, 2012

Purusing A Retaliation Claim At The Illinois Human Rights Commission

So your former boss engaged in retaliation against you when you spoke up about sexual harassment in the workplace. The retaliation ended up being a demotion and loss of pay. You contacted an employment laywer and filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR found substantial evidence and now you are filing with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") for trial. What can you expect? How long will it take? What are your chances?

Well, generally it will take about a year before your case will actually get heard by an administrative law judge at the IHRC. The other side would file a verified answer, then the attorney's meet with the judge to set a discovery schedule and engage in discovery. After discovery is complete, either side can file dispositive motions. Only after those motions are ruled on are you ready for trial. You chances will depend on the facts of your case. It will also depend on how good the discovery requests are and what you receive from the other side during discovery. This is why you should never go it alone. Discovery is very important to the outcome of a discrimination case.

May 19, 2012

Sexual Harassment At A Grocery Store

My Chicago office has been getting a number of calls from people who have been sexually harassed while shopping. The sexual harassment has been from employees of the store. The question they ask me is can they file a sexual harassment complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The short answer is yes they can. In Illinois you are suppose to be free from discrimination and sexual harassment in public facilities. Therefore a business cannot discriminate against you while you are a customer.

I notice that most of the sexual harassment involving shopping centers and customers are being perpetrated by management. For some reason managers believe they can hit on the women while they shop. This is a very big mistake and will end up costing the company money. It is very important for you to consult with a discrimination lawyer if you believe you have been victimized while shopping in Chicago or elsewhere in Illinois.

May 16, 2012

Filing A Retaliation Complaint In Chicago

So you are at work in Chicago and things seem to be going well. However, your boss is making inappropriate comments to one of your female co-workers. You witness this each day but keep your mouth shut because you don't wish to rock the boat. The female co-worker takes it for months and finally she complains to human resources and files a sexual harassment complaint. As part of the human resource investigation they call you and and talk with you about what you may have witnessed. You tell the truth and support her claim. You don't think about it and continue doing a good job. But now you have a problem.

All of a sudden you are being given a negative performance review out of the blue. And management is telling you that if you don't shape up you are going to be fired. What is happening? This happens all too often. It is called retaliation. In Illinois it is a violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act ("Act") and you can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") based on retaliation. Even though you are not the one complaining about the sexual harassment you can still file a complaint. It isn't enough for you to complain to human resources. You must file with the IDHR if you wish to get protection. And remember, human resources are the ones who are engaging in retaliation with the negative performance review so how much help are they going to give? Protect yourself if you are in this type of situation and understand you have rights.

May 15, 2012

Can You Win Sexual Orientation Claims At The Illinois Human Rights Commission?

My Chicago office gets inquiries about sexual orientation cases all the time. One question people have is can the case result in victory at the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC")? First we should discuss what a victory would be. At the IHRC if you are successful you can get lost wages, lost benefits, attorney fees, money for emotional distress, and money for any medical bills you have incurred as a result of the discrimination. Also the Judge may order the company to have to undergo mandatory training on discrimination, and may bar them from doing business with the state for up to three years. So how do you go about winning your case at the IHRC?

First you have to file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and get a finding of substantial evidence. Next the case is filed with the IHRC and discovery will take place. Discovery is where cases are won and lost. It is very important that you cooperate fully during this process and answer questions from the other side as fully and accurately as possible. It is also very important that you have a good employment lawyer during this phase because you want to ensure the discovery that is sent to your employer is good. If you don't ask for the right information in the right way, you will not get important documents which you can utilize at trial. Sexual orientation cases are very good cases to take before the IHRC and can often lead to good awards.

May 14, 2012

Text Messages Can Help In A Sexual Harassment Case

So your boss has been making comments to you that are not work related. He seems to ask a great deal about what you do after work. He is now starting to text you after work and the text messages indicate he wants some sort of relationship. What should you do? My Chicago office is seeing a large number of sexual harassment cases involving text messages. In Illinois there is strict liability on a company if a supervisor engages in sexual harassment. If your boss is texting you about personal activity and wants a relationship outside of work, this would be sexual harassment.

When you have been the victim of sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination in Chicago, you can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). If you file with the IDHR they are mandated by law to complete an investigation within 365 days. This is good news because it means the case will be moved along rather quickly. I think the IDHR does a very good job at investigating cases in Chicago. The bottom line is save your text messages and see an employment lawyer at once if your boss is hitting on you.

May 4, 2012

Mediation At The Illinois Department of Human Rights

My Chicago office often gets calls regarding mediation at the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). So what is mediation and is it a good thing? At the IDHR there is a special unit that tries to resolve claims before they get investigated. In short, they try to resolve matters before the IDHR or the attorneys spend too much time and money on them. Mediation in theory is a good approach to settling cases. The issue I have with the IDHR mediation unit is they require you to sign an extension before they will mediate the case. By law the IDHR must complete an investigation within 365 days from the date a charge is perfected. When you agree to mediate a case, the investigation process stops but not the period of time given to investigate the case. I can see the reason why the IDHR wants you to sign the extension, I just don't like to sign them. I also don't like to engage in mediation unless the parties are trying to settle the case and are stuck on numbers. For example if we are offering to settle for $60,000 and they offer $10,000 and we keep negotiating and we are now at $40,000 and they are at $25,000 and neither party will budge, mediation may be helpful to get both parties to move off their number and settle. I don't mediate however is the other side isn't offering any money or isn't negotiating in good faith.

If you do sign the extension what can you expect at mediation? Well the mediation unit has some great mediators at the IDHR. They act as a neutral party and try to point out the strengths and weaknesses to each party as the parties present their positions. One requirement for mediation is that each party bring someone who is authorized to settle the case. So for example in a sexual harassment case against a company, the company would have to bring someone to mediation that would be able to bind the company to an amount agreed upon. It isn't good enough to just bring an attorney and someone from human resources, unless the human resource person is authorized to settle on behalf of the company. The important point to remember is that the purpose of mediation is to settle the case. So go with an open mind and be willing to compromise. Even if mediation is unsuccessful, both parties get a better understanding of the case which is always a good thing.

May 3, 2012

Chicago Waitresses Subjected To Sexual Harassment

There has been a growing trend in Chicago toward managers and owners subjecting waitresses and other bar and restaurant workers to sexual harassment. Part of the reason may be the type of work atmosphere where liquor and intoxicated people abound. Whatever the reason, engaging in sexual harassment is against the law and will subject the owner to liability under the Illinois Human Rights Act ("Act") and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. An employee who has been subjected to sexual harassment can file a complaint with either the Illniois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). I personally prefer to file with the IDHR because they cross-file with the EEOC and they are mandated by law to complete an investigation within one-year. One could also file a complaint with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations ("CCHR"). One big advantage to filing with the CCHR is they can award punitive damages.

So which venue does your sexual harassment case belong in? The short answer is let an experienced employment lawyer evaluate your case and decide for you. There generally isn't a one size fits all strategy. For example if you have very low lost wage damages but the sexual harassment was very tramatizing and obscene perhaps going for punitive damages with the CCHR would be the proper venue. The important thing to remember is there are strict time limits that apply for filing a claim of discrmination. Dont' be one of those people who procrastinate and ends up missing a deadline. The company will have legal advice and people working on their behalf, so should you.

Continue reading "Chicago Waitresses Subjected To Sexual Harassment" »

April 24, 2012

Chicago Office Workers and Retaliation Claims

My Chicago office seems to be getting more and more calls from employees working downtown who believe they have been the victim of retaliation. In Illinois, if you complain about discrimination at work or if you cooperate with a discrimination investigation at work and have any negative job action taken against you, you probably have a retaliation claim. For some unknown reason employers just don't like to treat employees well when they complain about employment discrimination. They like to shoot the messenger and get rid of employees who they deem troublemakers.

My advice to you is seek out an experienced and aggressive employment lawyer if you are having trouble at work. You can bet your employer has good legal advice and they are going to do what is in their best interest. Don't get hoodwinked and taken advantage of by human resource departments and business executives. The company has one main goal and that is to maximize profits. Don't forget there are strict time limits for filing discrimination and retaliation claims so act fast. At the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") you only have 180 days from the last date of discrimination to file a claim.

April 23, 2012

Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation In Chicago

You are working hard in Chicago and think you are going to get the promotion to manager based on your good work. However, just before the decision, the big boss starts making jokes about gay men and you believe they are directed at you. As a gay man you feel uncomfortable and begin to wonder why the jokes are taking place now. The new promotion is announced and you didn't get it. The job was given to a less education, less experienced straight male and you believe it is because you are gay. What can and should you do? Contact my office because you may have a good claim of discrimination based on sexual orientation. Claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation must be filed within 180 days of the last date of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR").

Claims at the IDHR can be tricky and it takes experience to navigate the case through in the proper fashion. Sexual orientation claims are especially difficult because you have to show but for the comments and the persons orientation they would have gotten the job. In our example above, you would first have to show your co-workers know about your sexual orientation. Then you have to show that the comments made were directed at your orientation and they showed the boss had a negative view of you based on your orientation. My website lasorsalaw.com has a video on the IDHR which you may find helpful. It walks you through the IDHR investigative process and provides a good amount of detail.

April 21, 2012

Chicago Employment Discrimination Tips For Workers

So you are working in downtown Chicago and now after doing such a great job you now have a problem. You are the victim of what you perceive to be employment discrimination and you don't know what to do. In Chicago, discrimination in the workplace is governed by the Illinois Human Rights Act ("Act"). The Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") is tasked with investigating claims of discrimination under the Act. My office regularly practices at the IDHR and having an experienced attorney discuss your options is a good first start. There are many nuances during the investigation process that can mean the difference between your case being taken to the next level. In this case the next level would be for a trial at the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC"). The IHRC is where an administrative law judge either finds in your favor or against you. If she finds in your favor you can collect lost wages, attorney fees, and money for emotional distress.

It is very important that you properly document what is taking place at work if you believe you are the victim of employment discrimination. Some types of documentation are emails, text messages, voice messages, the names of witnesses and items like performance reviews. If the boss gives you great performance reviews prior to the discrimination and then you get fired, it would seem obvious that you are the victim of retaliation and the paper trail of performance reviews would be great evidence. My office never charges to discuss your employment related discrimination case. Protect yourself at work and don't let the company's lawyers and human resource personnel dictate your rights.

April 14, 2012

Cheesecake Factory Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

The Cheesecake Factory settles a sexual harassment lawsuit for an undisclosed amount of money. This particular Cheesecake Factory is located in Woodland Hills. According to already published accounts Vanessa Lopez alleged her supervisors sexually harassed her and then fired her for complaining. When someone is fired for complaining about sexual harassment it is referred to as retaliation. In Illinois if you are the victim of sexual harassment or retaliation you can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). This type of activity happens all too often. A person complains about sexual harassment and then a negative job action follows--in this case her termination. And the most troubling aspect of this is that the person who did the sexual harassment continues to work for the company.


Lopez started working at the Cheesecake Factory when she was 18, and was a good employee for three years prior to complaining about sexual harassment. In her sexual harassment complaint Lopez alleges general manager David Allen made inappropriate comments about Lopez's appearance, her body and even her scent. To make matters worse, he began touching her and sending her unwanted text messages. When she told him to stop her laughed and did not stop. Apparently he wasn't the only one that engaged in sexual harassment, she also claimed the executive kitchen manager Anastacio Rodriguez touched her. The company claims they fired her for issues unrelated to the sexual harassment claim. They allegedly caught her on video stealing tips that belonged to another colleague from the tip jar. I am always suspect about such claims and wonder why there wasn't a police report or why they would settle a case if they had such good evidence.

April 10, 2012

Tips If You Are The Victim of Sexual Harassment In Chicago

So you are working hard and doing a great job at work. You love your job in downtown Chicago and things couldn't be better. But now your boss is getting creepy and you believe engaging in sexual harassment. What should you do? The first thing you should do is make it clear to the boss that you are only interested in a business relationship. The second thing you should do is call my office for some legal advice--which is free. Remember once you complain to human resources about your boss things could get ugly for you. Many times the human resource department will view you as a trouble maker and find a way to minimize your complaint or just take steps to fire you. It is very important for you to document the sexual harsassment as best you can. There are a number of ways you can do this even if the boss is being clever and sexually harassing you one-on-one.

My Chicago offices files complaints of sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination at the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") on Randolph and LaSalle. However, prior to filing a discrimination complaint with the IDHR, it is important that we try to get as much evidence of the sexual harassment as possible. The evidence could include other people witnessing the harassment, text messages, voice messages, emails or other written documentation. We can also get copies of phone logs to show the dates and times of telephone calls. This is very helpful when you get calls late at night or on weekends and you don't have the type of job that requires those types of off-hour calls. I was say the most important thing to do is ensure you have evidence of the sexual harassment before you complain to human resources. Make sure you know your employment rights before you take the next step.

April 9, 2012

Tactics Chicago Human Resource Departments Use in Sexual Harassment Cases

So you are working hard at your workplace in the loop in Chicago and the boss starts to engage in sexual harassment. First it is comments about how sexy you look, then it is invitations to lunch and events after work. He is even texting you late at night and the text messages seem inappropriate. You go into work and tell human resources about it. What should you expect from human resources? Well they should do an investigation into the allegations. And they shouldn't engage in retaliation against you for reporting the sexual harassment. The problem is, that isn't always the case. Many times human resources circles the wagons and blames the victim. I am not sure what the reasoning is for this but believe it is an attempt to deflect potential blame from the management of the company--which would include human resources.

In reality here is what my Chicago offices sees often in sexual harassment complaints. The human resource department claims they will investigate and tells the victim to go back to work. The victim of harassment then starts getting negative job actions and a hostile work environment at work. I see the human resource department drag out their investigation for long periods of time. They may claim that key people are unavailable or they are waiting on telephone records. What they are really doing is allowing more than 180 days to expire so you can't file a sexual harassment complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). So be very careful after you make a sexual harassment complaint at work.. Consult with an experienced sexual harassment attorney so you know your rights and don't fall victim to the tactis of the human resource departments.

April 5, 2012

Personal Touch Home Care Settles Discrimination Lawsuit

Personal Touch Home Care pays $35,000 to settle an Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA") lawsuit. The discrimination lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") after settlement talks broke down. According to court documents, Pamula Calfee was fired because of her disabilities. The disabilities included renal failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma. An employer has to make a reasonable accommodation for someone who has a disability. Calfee was employed for many years and had no problems performing her job.

It is unfortunate that employers still don't treat employees correctly. Employees have rights and when those rights are taken away, employment lawyers can file discrimination claims with agencies like the EEOC. In Chicago, I prefer to file claims like this with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The advantage of filing with the IDHR is that they cross-file with the EEOC on overlapping claims and they investigate within one-year. The EEOC usually doesn't investigate discrimination claims within one-year. This case is a good illustration of why an employer should just make reasonable accommodations for a disabled employee.

“Treating an employee badly based on a physical impairment violates the very core of the ADA, and the EEOC will continue to fight for the rights of disability discrimination victims,” said EEOC attorney Laurie Young.
April 4, 2012

Standard For A Sexual Harassment Complaint In Chicago

You work in downtown Chicago in the Loop and you love your job. Your work seems to be going rather well and you get great reviews and evaluations. However, there is now a sudden problem. Your boss keeps making semi-sexual comments and seems to be taking a rather personal interest in you. He seems to stop by your desk more than he should, he asks about matters outside of work and his tone is more flirtatious than business. He is now trying to meet you outside of work for pretend business reasons and you don't know what to do. Because he is your boss there is strict liability on the company for sexual harassment if this rises to sexual harassment. These facts may be enough to rise to the level of sexual harassment in Chicago and in the rest of Illinois.

In order to rise to the level of sexual harassment in Illinois under the Illinois Human Rights Act ("Act"), the sexual harassment has to be unwanted and purvasive. That standard is subjective and based on the facts of each individual case. Does the boss have a business reason for his actions? Is he taking similar actions with male employees or other females? Is there a reason he has to see you outside of business or is this just a pretext? If you believe you are the victim of sexual harassment in Chicago, my office can file a complaint of sexual harassment with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). Under the Act, the IDHR is tasked with investigating complaints of sexual harassment and other forms of employment law discrimination. It is very important to file right away because there are strict time limits that apply and failure to meet those deadlines can adversely affect your legal rights.

April 3, 2012

Chicago Secretaries Subjected To Sexual Harassment

So you work hard all day as a secretary or administrative assistant and you now have a problem. Your boss has been hitting on you and makes you feel uncomfortable. So what constitutes sexual harassment in Chicago and throughout Illinois? What I just described above would be regarded as sexual harassment in Chicago. Because the boss has power and control over you the standard for sexual harassment is different than if another employee asks you for a date. Just think, if you reject the boss and don't go out with him, you may feel he would treat you different after the rejection. And you may feel compelled to go out with him for fear of making him made. These are the reasons it is sexual harassment if the boss hits on you at work. And the company would have absolute liability if the boss sexually harassed you at work.

So what do you do if this happens to you? After you contact my office we would file a sexual harassment complaint against the boss and your company at the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR is the investigative agency that is tasked with conducting investigations of violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act ("Act"). Sexual harassment is a violation of the Act and investigation of this violation would fall within the purview of the IDHR. Of course because the IDHR only investigates, they can't award money to the victim of sexual harassment. If you are successful at the IDHR and they issue a finding of substantial evidence, you can file a complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") and they can award money to you if successful at trial.

April 2, 2012

Illinois Department Of Human Rights Legal Tips

So you are in Chicago and you believe you are the victim of discrimination. What should you do to protect your rights? My Chicago office handles many types of discrimination and I file with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and they will automatically cross-file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") if the subject matter is allowable. The advantage to filing with the IDHR is they are mandated by the Illinois Human Rights Act ("Act") to investigate the discrimination complaint within one-year. This means your case will be quickly moved through the system and perhaps a resolution between the parties can take place.

For example in a sexual harassment case, the EEOC will allow for cross-filing and you will have multiple options going forward. This gives you the ability to file a sexual harassment lawsuit in federal court or if you follow the IDHR/state route, in state court or with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC"). A note, you can only file with the IHRC if there is a finding of substantial evidence by the IDHR or if the IDHR fails to complete its investigation within one-year. Make sure you protect your rights if you have been the victim of discrimination in Chicago or in other areas of Illinois.

March 30, 2012

Chicago Sexual Orientation Cases Can Be Filed At The Illinois Department of Human Rights

If you are the victim of sexual orientation discrimination in Chicago you can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). There is an important time filing requirement that can't be missed. In Illinois you have 180 days from the date of the last act of discrimination to file your complaint with the IDHR. If you miss this time limit you will be barred from filing a sexual orientation complaint with the IDHR. I suggest you meet with an experienced employment discrimination lawyer to discuss the facts of your case.

Many times sexual orientation discrimination may be subtle. Another words, the boss may not come out and make nasty comments but may discriminate against you in the following ways. First, he may deny you a promotion even though you have superior qualifications. Second, he may discipline you in a way that non-gay employees are disciplined. And lastly, he may not give you the best work and relegate you to menial tasks based only on your sexual orientation not based on your job skills.

March 28, 2012

Chicago Area Employers Engaging In Sexual Harassment

Chicago area employers seem to be engaging in sexual harassment through their employees. My Chicago office is seeing a rise in the number of sexual harassment complaints. These complaints will be filed at the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). After filing at the IDHR, if there is a finding of substantial evidence, the case can proceed in the local circuit court or at the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC"). Most sexual harassment cases involve the creation of a hostile work environment. The hostile work environment can be caused by sexual comments or viewing sexual material on the computer.

It is very important that as an employee you realize your rights under the Illinois Human Rights Act ("Act"). Under the Act you are protected at work from sexual comments and requests for sex among other things. If you are the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace you have many remedies available to you and an experienced employment lawyer can help you decide the best course of action. Remember that very strict time limits apply to sexual harassment cases so act fast and don't procrastinate.

March 25, 2012

Chicago Sexual Harassment Complaints At The IDHR

Well the figures for fiscal year 2011 are in and there were 417 sexual harassment complaints filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") last year. The majority were filed in Chicago at the IDHR offices in the Thompson Center. Now most of these charges also included additional basis of discrimination, most notably retaliation. The reason for this is most companies don't do the right thing once a sexual harassment complaint is filed and they take a negative job action against the complaining employee. Additionally, if during the company investigation someone comes forward as a witness and they receive a negative job action, they would have their own retaliation claim. Remember when you file a sexual harassment complaint with the IDHR, it is automatically cross-filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") if you check the appropriate box on the IDHR cover sheet.

By having the complaint filed with both the IDHR and EEOC you have two great options. If you stay with the IDHR and a finding of substantial evidence is awarded, you can filed directly with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") for trial or file your case in the local circuit court. If you take the EEOC path you can file a lawsuit in federal court. How you proceed will generally depend on the facts of the case. It is very important to have the facts in your case evaluated by an experienced and aggressive employment lawyer. In Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois my office never charges to discuss your employment discrimination case.

March 21, 2012

How Do You Enforce A Judgement From The Illinois Human Rights Commission?

So you filed your sexual harassment complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and you received a finding of substantial evidence. Next you filed a complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") and received a judgment for say $20,000. The Respondent refuses to pay the amount, what should you do? Well there is good news for you. You have two options. You can file an enforcement action in the local courthouse where the discrimination occurred. Of course this option will require you to pay court fees and costs.

The second option is to file a motion for enforcement with the IHRC. The advantage of this is the cost and time. Let the IHRC work on your behalf and bring the Respondent in to explain why they haven't paid the judgement. I recommend you have an attorney at this stage to make sure things go smoothly. Remember getting that piece of paper that says you are awarded some money doesn't do you any good until you covert it into cash. The IHRC in Chicago is located at 100 W Randolph in the Thompson building. Don't let valuable judgements go unenforced.

March 19, 2012

Chicago Employers Engaging In Retaliation

Employers in Chicago are still in a buyers market. There are far more people looking for work than there are jobs. This gives employers the upper hand and from my vantage point they are taking full advantage of it. This means they seem to be treating employees less than stellar. It is a violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act ("Act") to discriminate against an employee by having a member of management engage in sexual harassment or to engage in retaliation if the employee complains. If either of these occur, you can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR is the state agency that is tasked with investigating charges of employment discrimination.

If you file a complaint with the IDHR, the case will be governed by the Act. Under the Act, you can ask for damages that include lost wages, future lost wages, lost benefits, attorney fees, damages for emotional distress and reimbursement for medical bills attributed to the discriminatory conduct. It is important to speak with an employment attorney as soon as possible to protect your employment related rights. Remember, while the tide is still in favor in employers, you can expect to receive less than stellar treatment. Protect yourself and act fast.

March 18, 2012

When The Boss In Chicago Asks You Out Is It Sexual Harassment?

So you are at work in downtown Chicago and your boss asks you out on a date--what should you do? Well for the sake of this article lets say you don't wish to go out with him. Think about the position this puts you in. If you turn him down, you may believe he will take it out on you at work. Depending on the circumstances you may be the victim of sexual harassment. In Illinois there is strict liability against a company if a member of management engages in conduct which rises to the level of sexual harassment. So is asking you out one time sexual harassment? The short answer is yes it could be. A more thorough examination of the facts would be required.

What should you do if you boss asks you out and you turn him down? Contact my Chicago office for a free consultation on your employment rights. It is important you act fast because if you don't there is a chance the boss may take a negative job action against you months later and say it is because of poor performance. If you file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") after the negative job action, the company will argue it is sour grapes. However, if you file a complaint with the IDHR for sexual harassment when the harassment occurs, you will negate that defense. If after you file your sexual harassment complaint there is a negative job action, you will have a second complaint called retaliation. This would give you two charges with the IDHR. Protect your employment rights and act fast.

March 17, 2012

Peter LaSorsa Lectures At ISBA Seminar On LItigating Employment Issues

Attorney Peter LaSorsa was one of five attorneys who lectured for the Illinois State Bar Association ("ISBA") on litigating employment cases in Chicago. The focus of the full-day March 15, 2012 lecture was on the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and included fact-patterns involving sexual harassment cases and retaliation. The lecture was attended by attorneys from around the state of Illinois. Attorney LaSorsa's portion was dedicated to cases from a plaintiff or complainant's perspective. Issues regarding discovery, settlement and selection of venue were discussed.

The lecture also covered taking sexual harassment and other types of discrimination cases to the Chicago Commission on Human Relations ("CCHR"). There are many complicated factors that go into deciding where to file a case. With the CCHR you may be entitled to receive punitive damages among the other damages you can received if you file at the IDHR and follow that trajectory. The important issue is to consult with an experienced employment lawyer and ensure you get maximum benefit from your case.

March 12, 2012

Age Discrimination Lawsuits In Chicago On The Rise

In Chicago there have been a number of age discrimination lawsuits which suggests this type of discrimination is on the rise. It is illegal to treat employees over 40 different from those under 40. Many times employers are either looking to cut costs or get more work out of younger workers. What I mean by more work, is a younger worker may be eager to satisfy management and work off the clock to help impress. This type of activity may make the company more money but is illegal on several levels.

If you are the victim of age discrimination in Chicago you can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and it will be automatically cross-filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). This type of employment discrimination is harder to prove and usually requires examing the records of the company. As most employers are not stupid enough to fire you and say they are because of your age, it is helpful to have an experience employment lawyer working for you. In Chicago don't let employers discriminate against you based on your age.

March 11, 2012

Sexual Orientation Discrimination In Chicago

So you live in Chicago and you have been getting some unwanted comments at work. If the comments involve your sexuality you may have a discrimination claim based on sexual orientation. It is a violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act ("Act") to treat someone different based on their sexual orientation. Additionally if co-workers are making comments about you like "gay" or "fag" you should report this to management. If management refuses to address this issue you may have a sexual orientation discrimination claim.

If you are the victim of sexual orientation discrimination in Chicago you can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). They will investigate the complaint and if they find substantial evidence, you can file a complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") or you can file a complaint in the local circuit court. The important thing to remember is there are strict time limits and you should contact an employment lawyer as soon as you start to get trouble at work. Human resources is set up to help the company, not you.

March 9, 2012

If The Boss Is Sleeping With A Co-Worker Is That Sexual Harassment In Chicago?

So what happens if you are at work and the boss is sleeping with a co-worker? Is that sexual harassment in Chicago? The answer is probably. Here is the problem. If the boss is having sex with a co-worker who he is supervising, how can he truly be fair and unbiased in supervising you? This puts strain and pressure on the work relationship and makes it untenable for many workers. So you don't have to be the one having sex with the boss to be in a hostile work environment that is being created by the sexual relationship your boss is having with a co-worker.

In Chicago if you are the victim of sexual harassment we can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR must complete an investigation within one-year. It is very important that you save emails, text messages and voice mails that may help your case. There are many ways to prove sexual harassment and there are an equal number of defenses. A skilled employment attorney can navigate the IDHR and help your case get a finding of substantial evidence.

March 8, 2012

Gerrescheimer Peachtree City Settles Retaliation Lawsuit For $90,000

Gerresheimer Peachtree City pays $90,000 to settle a retaliation lawsuit. The retaliation lawsuit was first filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of former employee Donna McLeod. According to published accounts Peachtree terminated McLeod from her position as a quality assurance manager in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge with the EEOC. If you file a charge with the EEOC or in Chicago the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") you are protected from firing based on filing that charge.

This initially started when McLeod complained to human resources about gender discrimination based on unequal wages. This is called unequal terms and conditions of employment. There was an internal investigation and the company concluded there was no discrimination. Hearing of this finding McLeod filed a charge with the EEOC. Within six weeks of receiving notice of the discrimination charge filed with the EEOC, Peachtree terminated McLeod for purportedly misusing leave time. This was used as a pretext to fire McLeod. The alleged real reason for his firing was that he filed a complaint with the EEOC.

“All too often employers look for any opportunity to fire employees who exert their rights under federal civil rights law,” said EEOC Attorney Robert Dawkins.
March 6, 2012

Retaliation in Chicago Against Employees Who Cooperate With Investigations

So you are at work in Chicago and your human resource department calls you into the office to ask questions about an alleged sexual harassment incident that doesn't involve you directly. Could this end up being a problem for you? The short answer is maybe. It shouldn't be a problem because under the law you are protected when you cooperate during a discrimination investigation. However, that isn't always what takes place in the workplace. Many companies view an employee who is truthful as a problem if that employee is giving evidence against the company. I know this doesn't sound right but it happens all the time.

If you are working in Chicago and this happens to you all isn't lost. You can file a discrimination complaint based on retaliation with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR will investigate the claim and issue either a notice of substantial evidence or lack thereof. The important fact is the Illinois Human Rights Act affords you protections in employment. It is very imperative that you speak with an employment lawyer to ensure your employment rights are being protected.

March 4, 2012

Filing At The Chicago Commission On Human Relations

The good news for you if you have been the victim of sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination in Chicago is you have multiple options. In Chicago you can file with three different agencies. The Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"), the Chicago Commission on Human Relations ("CCHR") or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). If you file with the IDHR, they will automatically cross-file with the EEOC. So in affect you get a two-for one in that regard.

Where you file will depend on the circumstances and facts of your case. It is very important to speak with an employment lawyer and learn what is best for your circumstance. Of course if you live outside chicago in say the southern or central part of the state you can only file with the IDHR or EEOC. Don't wait too long because there are strict time limits that apply to discrimination cases. No matter where you file it is important that you keep track of what is taking place at work if you are still employed. Keep a log and save emails or other communications that may help your case.

March 3, 2012

Client Interview With The Illinois Department Of Human Rights

So you were the victim of sexual harassment at work and you filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). What are the next steps to proving the sexual harassment created a hostile work environment for you? You get a call from the investigator from the IDHR and he wants to schedule a client interview. What is this and what should you do to prepare for it? In Chicago the client interview will generally be held at the IDHR office on Randolph. For those downstate the client interview is held by telephone. Of course in person interviews can always be arranged by it is usually more convenient to do it but telephone.

The client interview is your chance to tell the investigator the details of your sexual harassment claim. You will also be given a chance to provide the names of witnesses, and to tell what documents you believe exist so the investigator can ask the company for them. The best way to be successful at the client interview is to properly prepare for it. Review your complaint including the dates you claim the discrimination took place. Try and remember who may have witnessed it. If you have an employment attorney it would be helpful to review all of this with him prior to the client interview so your interview goes smoothly. Remember this is the first impression of you in the IDHR investigators eyes, so make it a good one.

March 1, 2012

Why FIle At The Chicago Commission On Human Relations

So you have been the victim of sexual harassment at work and you don't know what to do next. Well of course you should contact an employment lawyer and then he will file at one of two places. First you can file with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR is mandated by law to complete an investigation within 365 days. Upon getting a finding of substantial evidence you can then file directly with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") for trial in front of an administrative law judge. Instead of filing with the IHRC you can also file in the local circuit court for a jury trial.

Another option if you live in Chicago is to file with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations ("CCHR"). One advantage to filing with the CCHR is you may be awarded punitive damages if successful. This may be important depending on the facts of your case. For example if you have a case in which the actual lost wage damage is limited but the facts are outrageous, punitive damages may be important and the way to go. The important point is to have your case properly evaluated so a determination can be made on which venue to file your case.

February 26, 2012

Illinois Human Rights Commission Trials In Chicago

The system we have in Illinois may be confusing to some people. One reason is there are two agencies that have similar names but have different functions. The two are the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and the other is the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC"). The IDHR has the job of investigating a discrimination claim based on the Illinois Human Rights Act ("Act"). The IHRC is the agency that has the actual trial after there is a finding of substantial evidence by the IDHR. The process can be confusing and it makes sense to have an experienced employment lawyer on your side.

In Chicago the IHRC in located downtown in the Thompson Center and there are several administrative law judges on the 5th floor. There are actual rooms that look like mini courtrooms and that is where the trial will take place. You should remember that it will take your case about year to make it through the IDHR and another year to get it to trial at the IHRC. Then after the trial, both parties file post trial briefs and then the Judge takes the case under advisement. The bottom line is the Judge will not make a ruling for another two years. What this means to you is that from the day you file your sexual harassment or other discrimination case at the IDHR, it will take at least four years before you will be awarded any money.

February 25, 2012

In Chicago At A Job Interview Cans You Be Asked If You Are Married?

Can an employer in Chicago ask you about your marital status during a job interview? The answer is no. Actually if they do and you don't get the job they probably have a problem. Under the Illinois Human Rights Act ("Act"), it is a violation of the law to find out if a person is married, or single or living with someone and base a hiring decision on this information. Anyone who asks you about your status regarding marriage is violating the law if you don't get hired because it puts the issue front and center. If this happens you can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR is mandated by law to investigate a complaint within 365 days. The IDHR will also cross-file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). This gives you both a state and federal option.

Now there are many different ways employers can try and inquire about your marital status. Some employers will do an Internet search on prospective employees. This could lead to employers finding out your marital status without them asking you directly. In my opinion this is also a violation of the Act and could subject the employer to a discrimination claim with the IDHR. Some employers will also check court records, which could reveal a divorce or marriage. It is important for you to realize you have rights regarding your employment or potential employment. These same rules apply if you are trying to get promoted at work or if you are being reviewed for a performance evaluation.

February 24, 2012

Do Sexual Text Messages Create A Hostile Work Environment In Chicago?

What happens in Chicago when your boss sends you sexual text messages? Do you have any rights and remedies? The short answer is yes Sexual text messages from your boss will create a hostile work environment not only for you but potentially for other workers as well. The sexual text messages would rise to the level of sexual harassment in Chicago and you would be able to file a discrimination complaint at the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR is mandated by law to investigate your sexual harassment complaint within one-year. These investigations can be tricky and usually require an employment attorney who can navigate your case through the system.

There are two types of sexual harassment in Chicago, one is called hostile work environment and the other is called quid quo pro. The latter is latin for this-for-that and refers to the boss attempting to give you something for getting sex from you. The hostile work environment type refers to sexual comments, touching, groping etc. In that type of sexual harassment the boss is not necessarily trying to have sex with you but instead trying to just make you feel uncomfortable. Now there are times when both types of sexual harassment take place.

February 22, 2012

Retaliation Claim With Illinois Department Of Human Rights

What happens in Chicago when you file a sexual harassment complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and you are then fired at work? Well the short answer is you need to file an additional complaint with the IDHR for retaliation. According to the Illinois Human Rights Act ("Act") which controls, you have a separate discrimination claim if you are fired for opposing unlawful discrimination. In this case filing a sexual harassment complaint would be the discrimination. Even if the underlying discrimination claim is found to have no merit the retaliation claim would stand on its' own.

So what does this mean to you? It is important that you understand you have legal rights against having any negative job action taken against you for filing a claim of discrimination with the IDHR. This also applies if you are the witness to a discrimination claim or if you participate in an internal discrimination investigation at work. So for example if you are called into the Human Resources office and asked about a sexual harassment incident involving other employees and you give an answer that hurts the company and they take a negative job action, you have a retaliation claim.

February 21, 2012

Information About The Illinois Human Rights Commission In Chicago

The Chicago office of the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") is where trials take place for violations of the Illinois Human RIghts Act ("ACT"). The trial is not in front of a jury but instead in front of an administrative law judge. Practicing in front of the IHRC is different from circuit court. Because of the differences, it is helpful to have an experienced employment law attorney on your side. There are various options available to you and it is important to have every fact available before you make your decision.

For example if you filed a sexual harassment complaint with the Illinois Department of Human RIghts ("IDHR") in Chicago and the investigator found substantial evidence, you will either file a complaint with the IHRC or file a lawsuit in circuit court. So the IHRC is really the second step in the process of having your sexual harassment complaint heard. Even after trial, it could take up to two-years for the judge to write an opinion on the case. For this reason it is important to always keep settlement in mind. Settlement allows both sides to put the matter behind them and also to guarantee costs.

February 18, 2012

Constructive Discharge In Chicago

There are terms used in employment law that may confuse some people. One such term is the word constructive discharge. In Chicago if you are working and someone is discriminating against you to the point where you can not work anymore, and you quit it is referred to as a constructive discharge. The standard is what a reasonable person would do in your circumstances. So for example is the boss tells you that you have a nice rear end and you quit the next day that may not qualify as a constructive discharge. The reason would be it is a one-time incident even though is would be sexual harassment. On the other hand if the boss has been telling you that daily and you tell him to stop daily and you are getting stressed and can't take it anymore, that probably would qualify as a constructive discharge.

In Illinois a constructive discharge case would be filed with the Illinois Department of Human RIghts ("IDHR"). In Chicago there seems to be a rise in the number of constructive discharge cases filed with the IDHR. One reason is probably the bad economy and the fact that employers seem to believe they can do anything they please. Employees are under more stress at work and quite frankly they seem under attack. The rights of employees is eroding and workers in Chicago must take a stand and protect their rights.

February 17, 2012

Discrimination Based on Ancestry In Chicago

My Chicago offices gets many calls from employees of companies who happen to be Hispanic and believe they are the victim of discrimination. They usually want to file a racial discrimination lawsuit but I have to tell them that in Illinois the only three categories of race are White, Black and Asian. Does this mean they are out of luck? The answer is no. They can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") for discrimination based on Ancestry. They could also file based on Color or National Origin. So what are the differences of each category? Well, Ancestry refers to the nation, country, tribe or other identifiable group of people from which a person descends. This covers a great deal of items.

National Origin on the other hand is based on ethnicity or accent. And lastly Color refers to the color of a person's skin. As you can see there is a great deal of overlap in all three categories. As an attorney that handles all types of discrimination cases at the IDHR, I can tell you that it is important to have someone with experience on your side. The Chicago office of the IDHR is a very busy place and you don't want your case to get lost in the shuffle. If you believe you are the victim of discrimination and the boss is treating you different at work, call my office to protect your rights.

February 15, 2012

Winning Your Sexual Harassment Case At The Illinois Human Rights Commission

Well you filed your sexual harassment case at the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") in Chicago and they found substantial evidence. Now what do you do? Well unless you choose to file your case with in the local circuit court you will have a trial at the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC"). The IHRC is different in many ways from the local court so it takes experience and knowledge to navigate. At the IHRC an administrative law judge will hear and decide the case not a jury. I believe this is a good thing because the judge is experienced in hearing employment law cases exclusively and this will work to your advantage.

There is another reason why the IHRC is a good venue for taking your sexual harassment case. There are no depositions unless ordered by the judge-which doesn't happen often. This keeps the cost of litigation down and puts more pressure on companies because they can't use their advantage of bigger pockets. In my experience most cases settle at the IHRC because the companies don't like paying attorney fees and don't like the uncertainty of not having depositions. It is important for victims of discrimination to realize they have a good option by taking a case to the IHRC.

February 14, 2012

What Makes A Hostile Work Environment At Work In Chicago

When you are at work what creates a hostile work environment in Chicago? If you are the victim of sexual harassment a hostile work environment will be created not just for you but for other employees too. Other employees who can hear and see the harassment are being subjected to the hostile work environment not just you. Additionally, anyone who acts as a witness during an investigation and is subjected to any type of negative action is not only in a hostile work environment but also has a claim of retaliation. When this happens there are a few things to keep in mind. First document everything that is taking place. Include the names of people who may have witnessed the harassment and the dates and times it took place. Second, gather any written evidence like emails, text messages and written messages. Lastly, file a written report about the sexual harassment to human resources.

The next step would be to file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR is responsible for investigating the complaint and determining whether there is substantial evidence to take the charge to the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") for trial. Companies are getting more aggressive and are not respecting the legal employment rights of employees. It is very important that you have someone on your side that knows employment law and fights hard for you. Don't be the victim of a hostile work environment in Chicago.

February 13, 2012

Sexual Harassment Lawsuits In Chicago

You are working in the loop in downtown Chicago and your boss is hitting on you. What are you suppose to do? Do you just put up with it and not say anything? If you complain will you lose your job? What proof are you going to be able to present that will make others believe your story? These are all good questions that need to be asked and answered. My Chicago office gets these questions all the time. You need to try and document the sexual harassment as soon as it starts. The documentation could be emails, text messages or written messages. Evidence may also include witnesses or voice messages.

The important thing is that you do something. Remember if you shoot the boss down enough he may start to write you up for performance issues and then where will you be? If you start complaining about retaliation after you get written up it may look like sour grapes. I find the best course of action is to file a complaint right away with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). By filing first before any negative job actions, you take away the defense of sour grapes. Remember it is very important that you protect your employment rights and not let the sexual harasser get away with it.

February 11, 2012

Chicago Sexual Harassment Involving Waitresses

My Chicago offices gets calls from people who work for bars, taverns and restaurants. The questions are usually the same. What rights do I have if the boss or co-workers are making sexual comments to me? Is this sexual harassment in Chicago? The answer is yes. This would be a violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act and we could file a complaint of sexual harassment with the Illinois Department of Human RIghts ("IDHR"). The good thing about filing with the IDHR is there is no cost and they are mandated by law to complete an investigation within one year.

So what types of defenses will the bar owner or manager use if I file my sexual harassment complaint? Well typically they will say the conduct was mutual and therefore consensual. If a member of management is doing the harassment the company will have strict liability. The important thing for you to remember is to try and get as much evidence as possible. This could be text messages, emails or other employees witnessing the conduct. Chicago has many bars and restaurants and there is a great deal of sexual harassment taking place. Act fast and protect your rights if you are the victim of employment discrimination.

February 4, 2012

Is A Co-Worker Looking At Porn On His Work Computer Sexual Harassment If I See His Computer

What happens if an employee can see his co-worker surfing the Internet and viewing porn? Is this considered sexual harassment? Well the short answer is yes. It would be the creation of a hostile work environment for you and the other employees who have to witness this. Now if the person has control over you like a supervisor or manager the company will have strict liability. If the person does not have control over you, the company only has liability if you report it and the company does not stop the conduct. So the first step would be for you to report this conduct to human resources. I recommend doing this in writing so you have a record of it.

The next step is to monitor what happens next. If the company intervenes and stops the employee from surfing the Internet for porn, the issue is resolved (In a reputable company the employee would be fired). If the company does nothing you need to protect your rights and file a complaint through an employment attorney with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). In Chicago especially it is important to get representation because the other side will have an attorney and it would put you at a big disadvantage if you go it alone.

February 2, 2012

Hispanic Workers Can Sue Under Ancestry Not Race

The Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") does not consider Hispanic to be a race for the purposes of filing a discrimination claim. The IDHR only considers three races, white, black and asian. The IDHR considers Hispanic people to fall into the white category and therefore in order to bring a discrimination claim you have to claim the discrimination is based on ancestry not race. So a racial discrimination can't be filed for a Hispanic worker. I know this may sound like a minor detail but it is the law in Illinois. My Chicago office represents many hispanic workers and I file often with the IDHR.

It is very important to properly draft the complaint in such a way as to maximize your chances of success. In Chicago there are many cases that the IDHR has to deal with and the better drafted the charge, the better the chances of a smooth investigation. You goal is to maximize your chances of winning and to maximize the money you may receive. Call an experienced trial attorney who concentrates in employment law cases and get the most out of your case.

January 31, 2012

No Upfront Costs For Chicago Sexual Harassment Cases

I am always amazed when I walk into the waiting area of the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") at the Thompson Center in Chicago and see people filing out paperwork by themselves. Most of them don't realize that they could have an employment attorney working for them for basically free. My Chicago office doesn't charge unless you recover some money so in affect you are getting me for free. Just think how much stress this would take off of you and what a feeling of relief knowing you have someone with real experience helping you. I know how important your sexual harassment or other discrimination case is to you. Don't go it alone and chance losing your case.

If going it alone with the IDHR isn't bad enough, when I go to the Chicago office of the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IHRC") I see even more people who are going it alone. This is very bad because the other side will have an attorney and this puts you at a real disadvantage. Do you really think you can go one-on-one with an experienced employment discrimination attorney ? And if you can get an attorney for contingency fee, why would you want to try? My Chicago offices never charges a fee to discuss your employment case. Do the right thing and call for a free consultation. Don't go it alone.

January 30, 2012

Sexual Harassment Via Text Messages

Because technology is spreading so quickly and most people own cell phones with text messaging capabilities, this medium is also being used to engage in sexual harassment. Most people don't just work from 9-5 anymore. They are available to answer questions while they are driving to and from work and at home. For this reason, many times supervisors have the cell phone numbers of their employees. This can lead to a problem for the company and supervisor. My Chicago office is seeing a big rise in the number of sexual harassment cases that involve the use of text messages. This is good news for employees who are being harassed at work because they will have a clear and accurate evidence trail.

This text message trail is very important when you file a case with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). During the investigation with the IDHR, evidence such as text messages can be utilized to show without question that you were the victim of sexual harassment and strict liability attaches. And don't forget that when one person at work in being sexually harassed it could create a hostile work environment for everyone. It is very important to speak with an employment lawyer and protect your rights. The company will pay large amounts of money to protect its' rights and assets.

January 29, 2012

Winning Your Age Discrimination Lawsuit At The Illinois Human Rights Commission

So you filed your age discrimination lawsuit with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and received your notice of substantial evidence. Now what are you suppose to do? Well you can proceed on your own and file a complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") for trial. Remember there won't be a jury trial but rather a trial in front of an administrative law judge. The good news about proceeding with the IHRC is the cost is free. Also there is a limited version of discovery that usually doesn't involve depositions--which can get expensive.

Age discrimination cases are usually won by the numbers. What I mean by that is usually someone isn't going to put derogatory statements about someones age in writing. You will generally have to prove the case by showing statistically younger workers are being given favorable treatment over older workers. The age cut-off is age 40. It is very important that you know how to proceed at the IHRC and can properly draft discovery and properly answer the discovery that the company will send to you. For this reason you should consult with an experienced and aggressive employment law attorney.

January 27, 2012

Is It A Hostile Work Environment In Chicago If Your Supervisor Comments On Your Body?

What happens when you come into work every day and your boss says you look hot or that sweater makes your chest really stand out? Are these types of remarks appropriate? Is there anything you can do about it? What does the law in Illinois saw about this? Of course this will be a case-by-case basis but generally if your boss is constantly making you feel uncomfortable by his comments about your looks, you may be the victim of sexual harassment by the creation of a hostile work environment. In Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois you can file a claim of discrimination at the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). However, you are better off speaking with an experienced employment lawyer and letting him file the charge for you.

My Chicago office gets many calls about employees who are tired of the remarks their boss makes about their looks. Employees are entitled to a certain degree of respect in the workplace and are protected from constant remarks which make them feel disrespected and humiliated. It is very important to speak with an employment lawyer early in the process to ensure your rights are protected and valuable evidence isn't lost. Remember the company is not going to protect your rights, only you and your attorney can do that.

January 26, 2012

Methuen Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit For $250,000

The city of Methuen will settle a sexual harassment lawsuit for $250,000. The sexual harassment case involves legal secretary Fulya Metin Campanelli and former city solicitor Maurice Lariviere who was her boss. According to published accounts the main claim was that Lariviere engaged in sexual harassment years before and the city did nothing to stop it and to punish him for it. This led him to believe he could continue to engage in sexual harassment and put her in close proximity with him. Another words she is saying that if they had fired him or given him discipline before he would not have been in a position to sexually harass her in the future like he did.

The history of a person accused of sexual harassment comes into play when a situation like this occurs. You can't put a person under the control of a person who has a history of sexual harassment without the proper monitoring in place. In affect you are putting fresh meat in front of a wild animal. In this case the wild animal cost he city $250,000. These types of employment law cases are very expensive, especially since the city also had to pay its' own lawyer a great deal of money to defend the case prior to settlement.

"The hardest and smartest thing to do is approve this and get this behind us,""It's a six-year horror show." said Councilor Michael Condon.

Continue reading "Methuen Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit For $250,000" »

January 25, 2012

Is Being Asked Out On A Date Sexual Harassment in Chicago?

My Chicago office gets many calls regarding what is sexual harassment in Illinois. Of course there are certain actions that are easy to identify as sexual harassment. But sometimes there are gray areas on what is sexual harassment. For example if a co-worker asks you out for a date one time that would not be sexual harassment. But if you keep turning him down and he doesn't stop that could be considered sexual harassment. Or perhaps after you turn him down he starts acting like a jerk at work and starts saying nasty things about you--that would be sexual harassment. In this type of situation it s a case by case basis. The facts will matter and should be evaluated by an employment lawyer.

Now if the person asking you out is your supervisor or another person in management who has any type of control over you, it may be sexual harassment the first time. The reason is that if you turn the person down you could feel that it would impact your job. And if you turn the boss down and something bad does happen at work, even if it isn't tied directly to turning him down for a date, it sure looks bad. It is a very bad practice for management to ask out employees. So if you are at work and are being asked out for a date and you don't want to go out, you have options. Contact an employment lawyer and find out if you are the victim of discrimination in the form of sexual harassment. If you are we can file a complaint at the Illinois Department of Human Rights.

January 24, 2012

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Says Discrimination At All Time High

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") received a record 99,947 charges of employment discrimination in 2011. With all of the calls to my Chicago office I am not suprised that the number of discrimination complaints is on the rise. I get so many calls about sexual harassment that I am amazed the number of complaints isn't higher. It is very important for employees to realize that they have rights and they have a place to turn to. It is imperative that you contact an employment lawyer who can help you navigate the EEOC and other agencies.

The EEOC obtained $455.6 million in relief through its administrative program and litigation in Fiscal Year 2011. This is a fantastic amount and this shows how widespread the employment discrimination is. There are state agencies that also investigate employment discrimination and I prefer to file directly with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") because they do a faster and better job of investigating issues. However the imporant thing is to file with either agency and protect your employment rights.

January 22, 2012

Proceeding Before The Illinois Human RIghts Commission

So what happens after you file your sexual harassment complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC")? Well you would have already gone through the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and will have an idea of the companies position against you. The key will be to evaluate your chances of success at the IHRC. Remember the standards are much different at the IHRC than they were at the IDHR. For this reason it is very important to be represented by an experienced employment law attorney. Things can get very tricky with the IHRC and you need to properly propound discovery to the other side. Additionally you must know the proper way to answer the discovery that is coming your way.

It is my experience that most cases will settle at the IHRC because the risk of a loss by the company is too great and too expensive. Remember if you are successful at the IHRC you can get your attorney fees, back wages and you can ask to be reinstated. Additionally you the Commission can file a document whereby the company can't get any government contracts for up to two years. This is a powerful incentive for the company to settle. Can you imagine if the company is getting two million dollars of government contracts per year. Do you think they are going to risk this on your case? But in order to put this type of pressure and leverage on the company you must be experienced in these types of negotiations.

January 16, 2012

What Is A Constructive Discharge In Chicago?

What happens in Chicago if you boss is making your life so miserable that you can no longer work? Well if there is an underlying complaint of discrimination you will have a claim for a constructive discharge. Constructive discharge in Illinois means that if you are being discriminated against and it creates a hostile work environment that a reasonable person would not tolerate you can quit and it is treated legally as a termination. However, if there is no underlying complaint of discrimination you have a problem. In Chicago and throughout Illinois there is no general harassment law. This means if the boss is just a jerk you get no protection.

So what happens next if you quit your job? Well I would do two things. First I would file a claim with the Illinois Department of Employment Security and second I would file a multiple count claim with the Illinois Department of Human RIghts ("IDHR"). The claim would be for the underlying discrimination and for constructive discharge. Remember that the more legitimate claims you have the better off you are. Chicago is seeing a rise in the number of constructive discharge claims and filing quickly is the best thing to do. Act fast and protect your rights if you are the victim of discrimination at work in Chicago.

January 15, 2012

What Do You Do When You Get Fired After Reporting Sexual Harassment In Chicago?

My Chicago offices gets calls all the time from people who report sexual harassment at work and then get fired. Sometimes they don't get fired but get demoted or the boss starts to really put the screws to them. In any event they get a negative job action after reporting the sexual harassment. In Illinois this is referred to as retaliation. If this happens to you at work, you can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR is tasked with investigating complaints of sexual harassment, retaliation and other forms of discrimination. There are strict time limits for reporting the activity so it is important that you act fast. Don't forget to save as much evidence as possible. This means printing out email's and text messages before they are erased.

The IDHR isn't tasked with anything more than investigation the complaint. If the investigator finds substantial evidence, you can then file a complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") where you will have your trial in front of an administrative law judge. The IHRC can be a very tricky place and it takes experience to navigate. The important thing is at the IHRC you need evidence to prove your case. It is important to have an organized plan of attack.

January 11, 2012

Chicago Sexual Harassment Cases Involving Senior Management

In Chicago there seems to be a rise in the number of sexual harassment cases between employees and members of senior management. Senior management can include owners, CEO's and COO's. Many times employees are reluctant to come forward because they feel the other person is too powerful and is beyond being controlled. They feel if it comes down to it, they will be fired--and if they are it would be retaliation under the Illinois Human Rights Act. This would only makes matters worse for the company and subject the company to additional liability. The important thing is to come forward and not let these senior managers get away with what they are doing.

In Chicago the job market is tight and people are afraid of rocking the boat for fear of losing their job. However, if someone is going to engage in sexual harassment do you really think they are beyond firing you if you reject them? Of course they will do whatever they deem necessary to protect their own interests. Filing a complaint of sexual harassment with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") is a good first step in stopping the harassment and protecting your rights. If they fire you for filing the complaint with the IDHR you then have an additional charge of discrimination based on retaliation. So firing actually gives you some protection. It is very important to protect your rights and take action if you are the victim of sexual harassment at work.

January 9, 2012

Chicago Sexual Harassment Cases Against Supervisors

What happens in Chicago when your supervisor is engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior with you? As an employee what can and should you do? In Illinois there is strict liability against a company and against the supervisor individually for sexual harassment if you are being subjected to sexual harassment by the supervisor. That means if you are being sent text messages and emails that are sexual in nature by the supervisor or anyone in management who has any type of control over you, than you have a case of sexual harassment. You can file directly with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). It is very important to get an attorney involved early so that the complaint can be drafted properly and it is filed in a timely manner. Additionally, the company will take you more serious if you have an attorney.

So what do you do after you file your complaint of sexual harassment with the IDHR? First, keep your nose clean at work and dont' give them an excuse to fire you. And believe me they will be looking for a reason to fire you. Just because you file with the IDHR doesn't mean you can start coming in late or goof off on your job. Second, keep doing your best and keep good records of what you do. If you are subjected to any discipline, make sure you document your objections in a professional fashion. Remember at some point a judge may be looking at these documents and we want to make sure they look professional. Let the other side look bad. The botton line is in Illinois there is strict liability against a supervisor for sexual harassment. Don't let your supervisors engage in sexual harassment in Chicago against you.

January 8, 2012

Being Discriminated Because Of Religion In Chicago

My Chicago offices gets emails and visits from people who are the victims of religious discrimination at work. So what exactly is discrimination based on religion? You can't be treated different at work based on your religious beliefs. And the employer must make changes to the schedule that don't create a hardship on the business if your religion requires it. So if you can't work on a certain day because of your religious beliefs and it doesn't create a burden on your employer he must give you that day off. If this doesn't happen and your employer continues to treat you this way, you are in a hostile work environment and you have a right to file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR will investigate the complaint and gather documents from your employer.

If the IDHR finds that you are in fact being discriminated against you will have a right to file a complaint directly with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC"). The actual procedure is the IDHR sending you a letter stating that they found substantial evidence and you now have 90 days to file your complaint with the IHRC. This is where the actual trial will take place and you will have an opportunity to confront your employer and his witnesses. The trial will take place in front of an administrative law judge and the remedies available to you include, back wages, future wages, money for medical care, lost benefits, attorney fees and money for emotional distress. You can also ask for your job back. All of this puts pressure on the other side and the chances of settlement if you have a decent case are good. Don't let your employer discriminate against you because of your religious beliefs.

January 7, 2012

Illinois Human Rights Commission Pre-hearing Memo

My Chicago offices gets calls all the time from people who are representing themselves in front of the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC"). They may have a claim of sexual harassment resulting in the creation of a hostile work environment or some other form of discrimination. The first step of course is to file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). After the IDHR issues its' report and finds substantial evidence you then have 90 days to file directly with the IHRC. Now the case really starts. Do you know what to do next? Are you going to be able to proceed on your own? Chances are the answer is no. But if you insist on proceeding on your own you should know the basics.

You will be given a trail date. This usually just acts as a first status with the Judge. The reason for this is both parties usually want to engage in discovery. So the first trial date is not really a trial date. When you do get your first trial notice you will see that there is a statement about a pre-hearing memo being filed 10 days prior to the start of the trial. What is this and how should you approach it. An experienced trial lawyer will be able to handle this for you and will have filed this document many times. It is very important that you fill this out properly or it could affect your trial. I suggest you don't fill this out alone. If you are going to fill it out alone read the rules on the IHRC website and follow their instructions. Remember this memo is very important, will list your witnesses you will call, and the evidence you produce at trial. Don't list an important piece of evidence and you can't use it at trial.

January 6, 2012

Are Sexual Text Messages Sexual Harassment In Illinois?

So you are at work and your supervisor starts to send you sexual type messages via text message. What should you do to stop this behavior without losing your job? And does this rise to the level of sexual harassment in Illinois? Well the short answer is yes. In Illinois there is strict liability attached to the company if a supervisor or person in management engages in conduct that can be deemed sexually harassing. So sexual text messages would qualify as sexual harassment in Illinois. And the best part about text messages are they show the phone number sent from and are easy to show ownership. Text messages are great forms of evidence.

One thing you should do is save the text message and print them out so you can' risk losing them. A complaint for sexual harassment can be filed at the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and they will automatically file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). I prefer to file with the IDHR because they are required by law to conduct an investigation within one year. The EEOC on the other hand does not have to conduct an investigation within a certain time period. In short, save your text messages and call an experienced employment lawyer.

January 5, 2012

Sexual Orientation Lawsuits On The Rise In Chicago

There are some very troubling statistics regarding discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation in Illinois and in particular in Chicago. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") the number of discrimination charges increased by over 6,000 from the previous year. In Chicago if you are the victim of discrimination based on sexual orientation you can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR will investigate the complaint and if there is a finding of substantial evidence, the IDHR will allow you to file a complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") for trial. At the IHRC there will be a trial in front of an administrative law judge. You also have an option of filing a lawsuit at the circuit court in the county where the discrimination occurred. An experienced employment lawyer can help you decide which is the best venue.

Even though Chicago is a metropolitan area there are still many narrow-minded people who engage in terrible behavior toward people who are different than they are. In the case of people in the Gay and Lesbian community, small minded people still can make their life miserable at work. Remember if you are the victim of discrimination based on sexual orientation you have rights and an opportunity to make things right. There are remedies that are available to you if you file a timely charge of discrimination at the IDHR. Protect your rights and act quickly. Save any text messages, emails or voice mails that may show discrimination or unwelcome comments. Take notes of things said in private and confront the person doing the discrimination via email so you have a paper trail. Also complain to human resources in writing so you have a record of making the complaint.


January 4, 2012

Proving Gender Discrimination In Chicago

You have been working hard and putting in the extra effort. You apply for the vacant supervisors job and you seem like a lock for it. You have the right education, work experience and you do the job now when the supervisor is out on vacation. But you don't get the job and what's worse a man who is less qualified and less educated gets it. You can't believe it and don't know what to do next. Well the good news is in illinois you can file a complaint of gender discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). They are the agency that is tasked with investigating complaints of discrimination in Chicago.

So what do you need to prove gender discrimination? Well it is very rare that you will have actual evidence of direct discrimination. That is, that management will write a memo saying don't hire any women for the job. So what is needed is what's called indirect evidence. You will show your qualifications, your education and the qualifications of the person who received the job. Other than your gender what was different? Did other men apply for the job and reach the next level of interviews? Does the company have a pattern of hiring only females for management positions? If the case makes it to litigation and you can take depositions or get the notes of the people doing the interview, are there negative comments about a bad interview or were they positive. These are just a few of the items you need to prove your case. Speaking with an experience attorney who practices in front of the IDHR would be your best bet in winning your case of gender discrimination.

January 3, 2012

Age Discrimination And The Illinois Human Rights Commission

The Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") is one of the agencies in Illinois that hears cases involving age discrimination and other forms of discrimination. In order to get a case in front of the IHRC you must first file a complaint alleging discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR will conduct an investigation and upon finding substantial evidence will send you the proper documents allowing you to file your complaint with the IHRC. It is very important to understand what takes place at both agencies so you can maximize your chances of success. Remember that one wrong step and your case could end.

So once your age discrimination case makes it to the IHRC what then? Well the good news is you are probably going to end up with a trial in front of an administrative law judge. Unless you have a baseless case this will happen. And the chances of your case being baseless at this point are not great because the case would not have made it from the IDHR. At trial you can ask for your job back which puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the company to settle. You can imagine how uncomfortable a company would be if they are ordered to take an employee back after they fired the employee. You can also ask for attorney fees, lost wages and benefits and money for emotional distress as well as any medical bills you may have incurred, including money for a therapist. Make sure you are prepared for your trial at the IHRC and maximize your chances of success.

December 27, 2011

Chicago Hostile Work Environment Facts

I get many calls from people in the Chicago area about their work place and what they believe is a hostile work environment. So what is a hostile work environment in Illinois? Well from a legal perspective, it is being treated different based on a protected category and then this treatment resulting in a work environment that is untenable. So for example if you are the victim of sexual harassment at work and this creates a situation that makes going into work too much for you to handle this would be considered a hostile work environment. You can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").

Many people call my office and tell me about what they think is a hostile work environment but under the legal standard it is not. There is no general harassment law in Illinois and if you just have a personality conflict with a boss or co-worker, you have no case. There has to be an underlying case of discrimination. Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to discover the underlying discrimination.

December 25, 2011

Tips For The Fact-Finding Conference WIth The Illinois Department Of Human Rights

My Chicago office is often asked to give tips on what takes place at the fact-finding conference with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). First lets look at who will attend the conference. The complainant, her attorney, the investigator from the IDHR, the Respondent and his attorney. If the Respondent is a company, it could be a representative from the company. Also, there is no requirement that either party have an attorney, although it is recommended. The conference will be held in person at the IDHR office, which is located at the Thompson Center for cases in the Chicago area.

At the conference it is important to have a list of names, phone numbers and address if known of witnesses. The witnesses don't have to be there but it is very helpful if you have that information to give the investigator. The investigator can then contact those witnesses prior to arriving at a report or finding. Also, it is important to review your complaint and review any notes you have. Make sure your statements are consistent and are supported by the evidence. This is your opportunity to tell your story, so tell it.

December 24, 2011

How Do You Prove Your Sexual Harassment Case?

So you are at work minding your own business and another worker or supervisor starts to engage in sexual harassment. What are you going to do to stop it? If you come forward and complain to human resources and the other person deny's it will your complaint end there? These are all good questions and issues to consider when trying to decide what to do if you are the victim of sexual harassment at work. So what types of evidence may you utilize to prove you are being sexually harassed? Well there are the obvious ones like text messages, email and voice messages. The problem is many times the person doing the harassment doesn't leave this type of evidence. To make matters worse, sometimes the sexual harassment takes place one-on-one and there are no witnesses. So how can you prove you are being harassed? How can you prove the creation of a hostile work environment?

Well one technique is to send an email or text to the person doing the sexual harassment memorializing what was said and see what type of response you get. For example you can text, do you really want to go out with me for dinner and perhaps more? If the person responds yes, you have proof that he said that to you in person. If the person doesn't respond, you have circumstantial evidence that something is going on, because the person didn't deny the message. This is just one technique that can help you become successful if you go forward with your sexual harassment complaint. If you do go forward you can file with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). By the way if you file with the IDHR they automatically cross-file with the EEOC.

December 23, 2011

Sexual Harassment Involving Your Supervisor

What happens when you are the victim of sexual harassment at the hands of your supervisor? As you can imagine it puts you in a very tough position because of the power the supervisor has over you. If you complain and management doesn't do anything what are you going to do? My advice to you is call an employment lawyer and discuss your issue. In Illinois there is strict liability if a person in a position of control engages in sexual harassment with an employee. It is very important to protect your rights and file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") within a very short time period.

My Chicago office is very active with the IDHR and i don't charge a fee unless money is recovered. There are ways to draft a sexual harassment complaint that puts pressure on the company to take the complaint seriously. Remember that human resources is not there to protect your rights, it is there to protect the company. Don't let human resources buffalo you into thinking they are handling it in a private fashion. Call an experienced employment lawyer and protect yourself. Many times, the company engages in retaliation when an employee comes forward and complains about sexual harassment. Don't get pushed around by human resources when your supervisor engages in sexual harassment.

December 22, 2011

Trying A Sexual Harassment Case Before The Illinois Human Rights Commission

Many times people will go it alone when they have a sexual harassment case with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). Even though it is unwise to proceed alone at that point it is not fatal. However, once the case makes it to the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") it would behoove you to hire an employment lawyer for your case. Two main reasons. First, it won't cost you anything as a good employment lawyer will take your case on contingency fee. Second, things can get tricky at the IHRC and you will actually try your case there.

The other side will have an attorney and you will be at a very big disadvantage if you don't have an attorney. One of the first things that will take place at the IHRC is discovery. If you don't draft discovery properly you may not get all of the information you need to win your case. Why take a chance and draft it alone?

December 21, 2011

Sexual Harassment Costs and Fees

My Chicago office gets calls all the time from people who want to know how much it will cost to file a sexual harassment complaint against someone at work. That is a very good question because most people don't have extra money set aside for legal fees. The good news for people is my office doesn't charge to file a complaint. I work on contingency fee only and don't get any money unless you recover money. So either we both get paid or neither of us gets paid. This also means that if I take your case I believe you have a good case or I wouldn't take the case.

Now there are times that after I take the case, facts are uncovered that can hurt your case but if you are upfront with me in the beginning this usually doesn't happen. It is very important to discuss your case early and file a claim of discrimination based on sexual harassment early so you don't miss any statute of limitation dates with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). I practice in front of the IDHR weekly and have many cases with them. It is very important to hire an experienced employment lawyer to handle your sexual harassment case.

December 20, 2011

American Apparel Settles EEOC Lawsuit For $60,000

American Apparel, Inc., pays $60,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission "(EEOC"). According to published accounts American Apparel fired a garment worker while he was on leave because of a disability, and thereby failed to accommodate him based upon that disability. When this type of activity takes place it violates the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA").

Many times businesses will try to discipline employees based on their medical problem. There are protections in place and people should remember the law is on their side. The EEOC along with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") work hard to protect the rights of employees.

"We are pleased that American Apparel recognizes the importance of the ADA and is implementing measures to insure its full compliance with the ADA going forward.” said Anna Y. Park, EEOC attorney.
December 17, 2011

Sexual Harassment Investigations At Major Corporations

Large corporations usually have very large human resource departments and large policies on discrimination. The discrimination policies usually cover sexual harassment and what to do if you are the victim. The corporations also usually give sexual harassment training to all employees. The problem is, when someone comes forward and complains about sexual harassment they are usually demonized, marginalized and for the most part put on the shelf. Big corporations don't like anyone who rocks the boat.

So what do you do if the corporation doesn't take your complaint of sexual harassment seriously. You call my office and we file a complaint of sexual harassment with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR will investigate the claim and won't let the corporation sweep the entire matter under the rug. Remember that human resource departments are there to protect the corporation not to protect you and your rights. A good employment lawyer will protect your rights.

December 16, 2011

Complaining About Sexual Harassment Usually Lead To Retaliation

it is unfortunate but true that when most people complain to human resources about sexual harassment the company ends up engaging in retaliation. Instead of investigating the complaint and taking action the company takes the blame the victim policy. This usually results in a call to my office and the filing of a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). This in turn results in the company spending money on legal fees and usually paying money to settle the case.

I am amazed how often this takes place and why companies just don't address sexual harassment complaints head on. I believe a good deal of this has to do with lack of training and an unrealistic belief that they can sweep the whole thing under the rug. People who have been victimized by sexual harassment deserve help and to be taken seriously. If companies don't wish to take the complaints in a serious fashion they will pay the price down the road.

December 13, 2011

Should I File At The Illinois Human Rights Commission Or Circuit Court?

My Chicago office has many cases of discrimination at the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The discrimination case may involve sexual harassment, gender discrimination, religion, sexual orientation to name just a few. So what happens after the IDHR investigator finds substantial evidence of the discrimination? Well there are several options at that point. We could file a complaint directly with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") or you can file a complaint in the local circuit court where the discrimination occurred. So which venue should you file your sexual harassment complaint or other discrimination complaint?

The answer for most cases is the IHRC. One major factor in filing with the IHRC is the cost. There is no cost in filing at the IHRC. Additionally, in my opinion the case will work its' way to trial at a faster pace than filing in the local circuit court. The downside in filing at the IHRC is you can't have a jury trial. All cases filed at the IHRC are heard by an administrative law judge. Remember the goal of any case is to get money in your pocket. Having a good negotiator on your side maximizing your settlement is key.

December 12, 2011

Filing A Sexual Orientation Discrimination Complaint

You are doing a great job at work and things seem to be going good. However you have a co-worker or supervisor that is discriminating against you based on your sexual orientation. You complain about it to human resources but nothing is done to stop it. So what should you do next? The only remaining option is to file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). Filing a complaint with the IDHR gives you protection and starts an investigation. Remember that the company can sweep an internal investigation under the rug, but they can't control the investigation with the IDHR.

The IDHR can interview witnesses, access documents and put pressure on the company to try and settle the case. These are all good things for a person who is being discriminated against. You can also keep your job while your investigation is being conducted by the IDHR and the company can't engage in retaliation against you because you filed the complaint. Don't go it alone, contact an experienced employment lawyer and get help protecting your rights.

December 11, 2011

A Trial At The Illinois Human Rights Commission

So your sexual harassment complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") received a finding of substantial evidence and you can now proceed for a trial with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC"). What can you expect? Well for starters you need to contact a good employment lawyer because going it alone is fraught with potential problems. You will want to engage in discovery and your discovery requests must be properly drafted and you must file the appropriate documents with the IHRC. If you don't do things properly you risk having your case dismissed by the judge.

If you do proceed correctly at the IHRC and actually get to the trial, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, there won't be a decision made that day. After the actual trial the judge will request a post-trial memo outlining the evidence presented and your argument. This is a very important document because many times the judge won't make a decision for several years and therefore the judge will rely on what you write. It is hard for the judge to remember what was said at trial if he doesn't decide until two-years later. For this reason having an experienced attorney can help your chances of winning.

December 10, 2011

Sexual Harassment Investigations

What happens when you complain to the human resource ("HR") manager that your supervisor is engaging in sexual harassment with you? What can you expect from the human resource manager in the way of an investigation? The answer will depend on the company and how serious they take sexual harassment. In most cases the HR manager will talk with you and the person you are accusing--not at the same time. Next the HR manager will talk with people who may have witnessed the sexual harassment. The HR manager may also review email and text messages to try and determine what happened. At the conclusion of this the HR manager will talk with senior management to determine what steps to take next as far as discipline including termination.

The problem with what is written above is many times HR just tries to sweep matters under the rug. They don't wish to get to the truth. If is a senior manager doing the sexual harassment, they would rather do nothing or worse, fire the person being harassed. This is what I call blame the victim. It usually can be called retaliation and can be the basis for a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. It is very important to seek legal help once you are the victim of sexual harassment because HR is paid by the company and their loyalty is with the company. Don't be fooled into thinking HR is looking out for your best interest.

December 8, 2011

Sexual Harassment In Chicago

Sexual harassment in Chicago is a growing problem. Because employees are making less money and are afraid to lose their job they put up with more than they usually would. And it seems managers think they can do more to employees. I get many calls about managers who are trying to have sex with their employees and making them feel like they will be fired if they don't go along with it. This is commonly known as retaliation. In Illinois this is illegal and a violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA").

In Chicago I file complaints of sexual harassment with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The complaints basically allege violations of the IHRA and the damages that I can ask for include, lost back wages, lost future wages, attorney fees, medical bills and money for emotional distress. It is very important for people to realize they must file a complaint within a short period of time or they will be prohibited because of the statute of limitations. It is imperative to speak with an employment attorney at your earliest.

December 6, 2011

Retaliation Against Sexual Harassment Victim

Usually when a person complains about sexual harassment in the workplace the victim ends up getting the raw end of the stick. For some unknown reason, management ends up blaming the victim and engages in retaliation. The retaliation can come in many forms. Everything from demotion, termination or just ignoring the conduct so that the person must endure even more sexual harassment. It is very important to document everything that is taking place at work to increase your chances of success.

My Chicago office handles many sexual harassment cases and I usually file at the Illinois Department of Human rights ("IDHR"). There is a strict time limit when filing a complaint at the IDHR so you must act fast and seek legal advice immediately. There are other reasons to act fast including drafting your complaint to human resources in just he right way. Remember that management is looking out for the best interest of the company and you need someone to look out for your best interest. Don't count of management; protect yourself.

December 5, 2011

Hostile Work Environment Needs Underlying Discrimination

In Illinois the Illinois Human Rights Act ("Act") protects employees from discrimination based on a number of categories. My Chicago office gets many calls from people who think they have a claim based on the creation of a hostile work environment. However, in Illinois the hostile work environment only exists from a legal perspective if there is an underlying charge of discrimination. The discrimination may be sexual harassment or any other form of protected category under the Act.

It is unfortunate that there isn't a general harassment law in Illinois but there isn't. There is currently a bill that is working its' way through the legislature that would make the creation of a hostile work environment illegal and actionable. Now it is helpful to speak with an employment lawyer regarding your work related issues because perhaps you are being singled out based on your gender or religion and you just don't realize it. Just remember that unless there is an underlying basis for the creation of the hostile work environment, you don't have a case that can be filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights.

December 4, 2011

Sexual Harassment Settlements

There are many steps in a sexual harassment lawsuit. First, the complaint is filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). If you file with the IDHR they will cross-file with the EEOC so you get a two for one. After the complaint is filed there will be a verified answer filed by the company; which is simply an answer filed under oath. After the answer is filed the IDHR will schedule a client interview to get facts and the names of any witnesses. The next step is the fact-finding conference at the IDHR. The fact-finding conference would be attended by the person filing the charge, her attorney, the IDHR investigator and the company representative and their attorney.

Along the way the parties usually try to settle the case. So why should you try and settle the sexual harassment case? There are many reasons why settling is to your advantage. First, you get guaranteed money in your pocket. Remember there is no guarantee you will win your case. Second, you get money today as opposed to perhaps getting money years from now. Third, you don't have to worry about the company going out of business or filing for bankruptcy. Because sexual harassment cases take years to get to trial a company could have financial problems before the case is resolved. I always work hard to settle cases and think it is the best course of action in sexual harassment cases.

December 3, 2011

Age Discrimination In The Recession

Unemployment ranges between eight and nine percent in Chicago. As the fight for jobs increases many people over the age of 40 find themselves under more scrutiny. In Illinois it is a violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA") to discriminate against someone because of their age. Under the IHRA the age is 40. Another words, if you are 40 or over you can file a charge of age discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") if you believe you are being treated different than younger workers. Many times a review of all the employee files including education, experience and pay can be utilized to prove age discrimination.

Age discrimination in the workplace can also create a hostile work environment for all employees because of the message it sends. If an person is able to show substantial evidence with the IDHR, he can then file a complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") for a trial in front of an administrative law judge. Remember that people over 40 are starting to near the end of their work career so any negative job action against them can really ruin their career.

November 29, 2011

What Is A Constructive Discharge In Chicago?

What is a constructive discharge in Illinois? A constructive discharge occurs when an employee is put in a position because of discrimination that a reasonable person in the same position would quit. Under the law a constructive discharge is treated as a termination by the employer. If a person is subjected to a hostile work environment because of discriminatory behavior, the person can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). Under the law the person would have 180 days from the last date of the discrimination to file such a complaint.

After a complaint works its' way through the system with the IDHR two things will happen. Either a finding of substantial evidence or lack thereof. There is actually a third option, the IDHR doesn't complete its' investigation within one-year and a right to file directly with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC"). The IHRC is where the actual trial will take place and where remedies occur. It is very important to consult with an employment lawyer early in the process to maximize your chances of getting either a good settlement or judgment.

November 28, 2011

Sexual Harassment Case At The Illinois Human Rights Commission

The Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") is the place where a sexual harassment complaint will be heard after you file your complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and get a finding of substantial evidence. You also have the option of filing your case in the local circuit court. My Chicago office handles many sexual harassment cases at the IHRC and people are foolish to not hire an experienced attorney when proceeding at that venue.

The IHRC has its' own rules and procedures which many attorneys are not familiar with. If you have an attorney who is experienced with these, it puts you in much better shape of settling your case or winning your case. Remember that sexual harassment usually creates a hostile work environment for you and other employees and you may be still working even while your case goes to trial. Taking steps to maximize your chances of winning is the best course of action. The first such step is to hire a good, aggressive and experienced employment lawyer.

November 25, 2011

Who Pays Attorney Fees At The Illinois Human Rights Commission?

A big question my Chicago offices gets is when a case gets filed at the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") for trial who pays the attorney fees. As you can imagine, attorney fees can get very expensive and most people can't afford them. My office takes cases before the IHRC on contingency fee only for the client. However, that doesn't mean that the losing party is off the hook for attorney fees. My offices hourly rate is $250 per hour and I always ask for attorney fees from the Respondent in the case. Attorney fees can easily run $30,000-$60,000 in an average hostile work environment case by the time the case goes to trial and the judge issues a decision.

There are many reasons for such high fees. First, the case starts at the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and that process takes over a year. Most cases especially those involving sexual harassment have email, text messages and other detailed information. Next, the parties usually try to settle and if not there is a good deal of discovery at the IHRC. Discovery is very expensive in both time to process the information and then at trial to prepare that information for the actual trial. The good news for Complainants is that most of the time plaintiffs don't have to pay for the attorney fees of Respondents even when they lose.

November 23, 2011

Proceeding Before The Illinois Human Rights Commission

My Chicago office handles many types of discrimination cases. One question that I get asked often is what happens after I file a discrimination case with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR")? Does the IDHR try the case and give a verdict? The answer is no. The IDHR investigates the complaint and if there is substantial evidence allows you to file directly with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") for trial. So in fact the IDHR acts as a gate keeper for the IHRC. This keeps the number of cases down so the IHRC doesn't get overwhelmed with cases.

Of course the down side is many times the investigators at the IDHR try to try the case and issue their own verdict so to speak. It is very important to hire someone experienced when taking a case to the IHRC because cases can be won and lost during discovery. Many sexual harassment cases that I file at the IHRC are settled because the other side doesn't want damaging or embarrassing details coming out about what really happened at the company. Additionally, many sexual harassment cases also include a claim for retaliation and companies don't want those details emerging either. It is in your best interest to proceed before the Illinois Human Rights Commission with caution and in my opinion with the help of an experienced employment lawyer.

November 22, 2011

Sexual Harassment In Chicago

Sexual Harassment in the workplace is a growing problem. There are statistics that show the numbers going up or down but they don't really tell the story. In Chicago my office is seeing a rise in the number of sexual harassment complaints. There are many reasons for the increase I am sure. I believe one reason is the tight job market and the fear employees have about losing their job if they complain. In Chicago I file sexual harassment complaints with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). Even though the IDHR is having budget cuts they still do a great job of investigating complaints of discrimination including sexual harassment.

There are many other types of discrimination that can be filed with the IDHR and the important thing to do is for people to contact an employment lawyer to get better advice. Remember there are strict time limits for filing a complaint with the IDHR and once those limits pass, your case will be lost. There is no reason why an employee has to put up with sexual harassment. You have rights as an employee in Illinois and it is very important that you speak with a sexual harassment lawyer to protect your rights.

November 21, 2011

Evidence In A Sexual Harassment Case

What happens when you are being sexually harassed at work and there is no written proof or no witnesses? How are you suppose to confront the person doing the sexual harassment and prove this is actually happening? My Chicago offices gets calls like this all the time. Here is the advice I give and what I believe you should do. If the person harassing you will not stop try this. Send him an email memorializing what he just said to you and ask if you heard him correctly. This does a couple of things First, if he responds in the positive, you now have proof of what he said to you.

Second, even if he does not respond to your email, it may get him thinking that you will not put up with the sexual harassment and he may stop. If the person still won't stop you can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). My office handles cases before the IDHR and it is one way to stop the harassment. Remember that not doing anything is the worse thing because the harasser will just continue doing what he is doing.

November 18, 2011

Sexual Harassment Defense Of Consent

My Chicago office is seeing a real increase in the number of sexual harassment defense claims of consent. It usually starts with the employee filing a complaint of sexual harassment and backing it up with evidence such as text messages or emails. The person doing the harassing then if left with two choices. They can't deny the sex text messages so they can't deny there was sex talk. They could admit to harassing the person but usually they do not. Instead they claim the sex talk with consensual and two-way and therefore consensual. In affect they are claiming there is no sexual harassment because the advances were warranted.

The problem with this theory is, the person doing the harassing is usually in a position of power so there really can't be a true consent. Second, usually the evidence shows the person doing the harassing is sending more texts and it starting the text message chain. I tell my clients not to be afraid of this type of defense and don't let it discourage you from coming forward. At the end of the day, text messages are usually the best evidence you can have. I file many cases at the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") regarding sexual harassment cases involving text messages.

November 13, 2011

Trial At The Illinois Human Rights Commission Or?

Does it makes sense to file your sexual harassment case with the Illinois Human Rights Commission (“IHRC”) after you get a finding of substantial evidence from the Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”)? Well there is no standard answer to that question. In general, a case filed with the IHRC will be less expensive to pursue and will go to trail faster than a case filed with the circuit court in your particular county. However after the administrative law judge hears the case at the IHRC, it can take years before a written decision is made. If you have a case go to trial in the circuit court the verdict is made that day or a day later for the most part. So what is the advantage of filing with the IHRC? Well, most cases settle prior to trial. Because the IHRC will hear the case quicker, it logically follows that the case will settle quicker once you file with the IHRC. So one big advantage of filing with the IHRC is you may get actual money in your pocket quicker.

On the down side of filing with the IHRC, an administrative law judge and not a jury will hear your case. Juries are known to award higher amounts and sometimes having that wildcard can increase settlement amounts. And in sexual harassment cases that involve a hostile work environment juries can really award large amounts. But remember there is no rule and this varies on a case-by-case basis. Another factor to consider are the facts of the case. Sometimes a case is better off being filed in an employee friendly venue like the IHRC rather than in the local circuit court—which can be very company friendly. Remember local judges for the most part are elected and companies contribute large amounts to these elections. Administrative judges are appointed and may not have that much influence from big business. So the question of which venue should I choose will depend on the facts of your case and your goals.

November 12, 2011

Text Messages In A Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

In a sexual harassment case many times the person being harassed receives text messages that are sexual in nature. In many instances the person’s supervisor, or someone in authority is sending these messages. When the sexually suggestive text messages first start it puts the employee in a very awkward position. When they get the first text message they don’t know what to do. Should they immediately confront the harasser and jeopardize their job? Should they just text something back hoping the harasser will be satisfied with the response and let things go at that? There is no playbook to follow and it puts the employee in a very difficult position. A position they should not be in. This type of activity puts an employee in a hostile work environment and can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety. And the real issue is the supervisor has no business putting an employee in this position. Additionally, they company should do a better job training management so they realize they can’ do this to employees.

Once a sexual harassment complaint is filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”) the company will usually try to explain the inappropriate and sexual text messages as consensual. They do this because how else can they explain the boss sending sexual messages to an employee? It is too bad they take this approach and don’t instead admit some liability and try to resolve the case at this point. My Chicago office sees case after case of employers not owning up to the sexual harassment and instead either blaming the victim or trying to concoct some story about it being consensual. The good thing about Illinois law is that under the Illinois Human Rights Act a company has strict liability if the supervisor engages in sexual harassment. This means reporting this type of behavior to human resources isn’t required before liability attaches to the company. The bottom line for victims of sexual harassment is don’t be too concerned if you happen to have responded via text message to the person harassing you.

November 10, 2011

Illinois Department Of Human Rights Update

My Chicago office files many claims of sexual harassment with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). A person who is the victim of sexual harassment or other form of discrimination in the workplace or public accommodation must first file with the IDHR or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). This must take place prior to having the case heard in federal court, state court or in front of the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC").

Recently because of budget cuts the IDHR has been tasked to lay off 25% of its investigators. This is going to have a dramatic affect of how quickly a case moves through the system and how well victims of discrimination will have justice. You can guess that wiping out 25% of a workforce can only have a negative impact in the quality of service. The IDHR does a great job of investigating claims and trying to resolve cases prior to the filing of a complaint in court or with the IHRC. Hopefully the masterminds in Springfield will come to their senses and stop this insanity.

November 9, 2011

Bringing People To The Illinois Department Of Human Rights Fact-Finding Conference

I represent complainants at the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") on charges of discrimination including sexual harassment. One of the steps in the investigation process by the IDHR is to conduct a fact-finding conference. I just appear with my client but many times the other side will bring many witnesses. I have never really figured out why defense attorneys do this other than to run their bill as high as possible. You can imagine the time it takes to prep all of those witnesses prior to the fact-finding conference.

The reason I don't think it is a good idea to bring extra people is because they aren't going to do any good. As long as the complainant says something happened the investigator can't disbelieve the credibility of the complainant. This is because of a federal case called Cooper v. Salazar. Basically an investigator with the IDHR is prohibited from making a credibility of witness determination. So bringing extra people may seem impressive but all they are doing is giving the complainants attorney a free bite at the apple by hearing what they have to say.

November 8, 2011

Age Discrimination And Being Replaced By Technology

My offices gets calls from time to time on interesting topics. A recent call set out a series of research querrys involving other states and here is what the question was and what I found. Can an employee over 40 be replaced with technology and if so is that a form of age discrimination under the law? Or course if it is age discrimination the employee could file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") or the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR").

I did some research and found a case from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. It is Cortemoller v. Int'l Furniture Mktg., Inc. In that case Mr. Cortemoller was replaced with some technology that did his job as a communicator. He sued under the age discrimination laws and the district court granted summary judgment to his employer. He appealed and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the lower courts ruling. In short, the court held that technology does not amount to a younger employee. This case is very interesting and I am sure we will see similar challenges in other states and thus other circuits. In the future I could see a similar claim brought by other protected classes of people under for example sexual orientation.

November 5, 2011

Sexual Harassment And Confidentiality Agreements

So you filed a sexual harassment complaint at either the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The case is about to settle and you being told to sign an agreement that includes a paragraph called a confidentiality clause. What is a confidentiality clause and why is it in most sexual harassment agreements? The answer is simple, the clause is effectively a gag making sure you don't discuss the details of the case. Most companies settle the case and don't wish to have negative publicity associated with the case.

The confidentiality clause is also good for the employee. The clause prevents the company from badmouthing or otherwise letting details of the case escape which may put the employee in a negative light. So the confidentiality clause helps both sides and can be seen as a positive. Even if the case has reached the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") for trial the details won't become public unless there is an actual trial. Given this fact, the parties can still settle with the details of the case being kept private. The recent case involving Herman Cain and his sexual harassment lawsuit helps illustrate the importance of a good confidentiality clause in the settlement agreement.

November 4, 2011

Cost Of Defending A Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Now that Presidential candidate Herman Cain is being accused of sexual harassment by three different former employees sexual harassment in the workplace is on the forefront. In the Cain case, two former employees settled their claims for an undisclosed amount of money in return for signing a confidentiality agreement. So what is the true cost of settling a sexual harassment case? Well first there is the amount of money you are going to pay the victim. Second, you are going to incur legal fees from your own attorneys which can be substantial. And lastly you are going to have the settlement hang over your head in the future. Case in point the Cain case.

If the company did not settle the sexual harassment claims with Cain's alleged victims, the company could have fought and if they prevailed the facts would be public and Cain would be vindicated. Instead, the facts are hidden and in dispute. So did Cain really sexually harass the women or not? That question is now on the table because the case was settled with a confidentiality agreement. In Illinois a sexual harassment complaint can be filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). If you file with the IDHR they will cross-file with the EEOC so you get a two for one. In any event, the true cost of a sexual harassment case may not be determined by crunching the numbers as evidenced by the Cain case.

November 1, 2011

Illinois Department Of Human Rights Staff Cuts

The Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”) is having budget issues and recently laid off employees. This means that the investigative phase of the agency will be slowed. The agency is mandated by law to complete an investigation into sexual harassment and other forms of employment discrimination within one year from the date of filing a charge. This is going to be very difficult now that there have been substantial layoffs.

The good news for plaintiffs lawyers is that the cases can perhaps get fast tracked and end up at the Illinois Human Rights Commission (“IHRC”) faster. After all the IHRC is where the money will be made because the IDHR only has the authority to issue a finding of substantial evidence or lack thereof. The IHRC on the other had can issue a monetary judgment. I will keep readers up to date on what is happening at the IDHR and if there will be further layoffs.

October 27, 2011

Proceeding Before The Illinois Human Rights Commission

So the initial complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") was successful and they found substantial evidence of your discrimination. You filed directly wit the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") for trial--now what? Well now is the time you have to prove your case in front of the administrative law judge so you can get paid. The process may seem straight forward and one in which the average person can easily navigate but beware. There are many small things in your case that take an experienced and aggressive lawyer. Do you know all the nuances of the discovery process? Do you know the best question to ask in interrogatories or the best document requests to make? If you don't ask for the right information you may be missing a great opportunity to get good and useful evidence.

Experienced employment attorneys who handle these cases in front of the IHRC can make all the difference. In fact, it can mean the different in not getting any money or getting a nice settlement or award. The IHRC is not there to represent you so you must either represent yourself or hire an employment attorney. Your have been successful so far with your case, take the extra steps and make sure you get paid. Hire an experienced employment attorney once you get to the IHRC.

October 26, 2011

Sexual Orientation Lawsuits In Chicago

The numbers are in and the fact is the number of sexual orientation lawsuit being filed in Chicago is on the rise. There are a number of reasons this is taking place. First, people are feeling more comfortable about their identity and they are exerting their legal rights when they feel they are the victim of discrimination. Second, the number of people at work who are willing to come forward during investigations regarding sexual orientation seems to be increasing as well. When you combine both of these, the numbers support the increase.

The Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") is the venue I choose to file a sexual orientation claim because they are required by law to complete the investigation within one year. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on the other hand has no such mandate and therefore the case could linger unresolved for years. Also when you file with the IDHR, the case is automatically filed with the EEOC so you get the best of both worlds.

October 25, 2011

Unknown Facts About The Illinois Human Rights Commission

There are many hidden facts when your case comes before the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") and the untrained person can make big mistakes is they proceed on their own. For example did you know that it generally takes over two years from the date of your trial to actually get a ruling? That isn't two years from the date of filing but rather from the actual trial. That means from the time you first file your complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") you case may take four or five years to get to an actual decision. With those facts in mind you can see why it is so important to try and settle your case early.

An experienced employment lawyer can settle your case at the IDHR level and that is the best way to go if you desire money now rather than years from now. For example in most sexual harassment cases the company will want to settle quickly to avoid negative publicity and large legal fees in defending the claim. It is always wise to hire an experienced and aggressive employment lawyer. Most cases settle so why not settle early.

October 24, 2011

Illinois Department of Human Rights Issues

If you are the victim of discrimination in Illinois you can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR is mandated by law to complete its' investigation within 365 days of the filing date, unless both parties agree in writing to extend the time. This is a very steep order and it is only going to get worse because the IDHR is going to lay off a good number of investigators due to budget cuts. Generally speaking the IDHR does a great job and they often help case settle quickly. Hopefully these budget cuts won't last. However, the fact that they are laying workers off means you really need an experienced employment attorney to navigate these tricky waters.

My chicago office handles a great deal of discrimination cases with the IDHR especially regarding sexual harassment. There is a very intricate art to dealing with the IDHR especially now that they will be short handed. There is never a charge unless money is recovered so why go it alone? I will continue to keep readers up to date on what is going on with the IDHR and hopefully good news will soon follow.

October 22, 2011

Sexual Harassment In Chicago

The city of Chicago is seeing an increase in the number of private employees who are filing sexual harassment complaints with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The reason for the increase could be because of the lousy economy and because employers ,may feel as though they don't have to address the needs of workers. Additionally, employers are cutting back on training and education regarding discrimination in the workplace including sexual harassment.

There are many protections available for employees who believe they are the victims of sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination. Sexual harassment can be touching, comments and requests for sex. The biggest problem I see if for victims of sexual harassment being able to prove their case. Many times the person doing the harassment does it one on one and there are no witnesses.

October 20, 2011

What Is A Constructive Discharge In Illinois?

A constructive discharge is treated in Illinois as a termination. Generally what happens is an employee is the victim of sexual harassment or another form of discrimination, complains to management about it and nothing is done. The situation at work gets so unbearable that any reasonable person would quit. The courts have held that a person does not have to continue working in a hostile work environment once management is aware of the situation and refused to remedy the situation. In Illinois I filed constructive discharge cases with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and they are automatically cross-filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission("EEOC").

There are very strict time limits for filing such complaints and it is very important to not miss the filing deadline or else your case will be lost forever. Many times management will say they are investigating the complaint and they will drag their feet and waiting until the 180 days is past. By doing this, the company will have prevented you from filing with the IDHR because the statute of limitations will be in affect. It is very important to speak with an employment lawyer so you can learn your rights and not let the company push you around.

October 19, 2011

Chicago Sees Increase in Sexual Harassment Cases

Chicago is seeing an increase in the number of sexual harassment cases being filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). My office in Chicago is mirroring this fact as well. There are many reasons for the increase in cases being filed. Many employers are feeling powerful because of the current job market. They believe they can get away with thing and conduct they normally wouldn't try to get away with. They also believe employee are too afraid of losing their jobs to complain if they are the victim of sexual harassment. They seem to be wrong on both counts. People are sticking up for their rights and they are not letting these companies push them around.

I believe that as long as people fight for their rights and don't let these companies push them around the workplace will become better for all employees. Every employee in Illinois has guaranteed rights which are not only granted by the Illinois Constitution but also by the Illinois Human Rights Act. Usually there are other forms of discrimination taking place along with the sexual harassment. The most common are retaliation and the creation of a hostile work environment.

October 17, 2011

Chicago Employers Having Drinks With Workers and Sexual Harassment

My Chicago offices gets many calls for various types of sexual harassment. Sometimes the harassment occurs at work, sometimes over the phone at home. But in what seems like a trend there are more cases of sexual harassment taking place over drink in what is pretended to be a work type meeting--in a restaurant or bar serving liquor. I know this may seem odd that the boss needs to discuss business with an employee in a bar but it happens more than you think. There are probably several reasons for this. First, the boss may believe in a bar he can get your liquored up and make you do something you would otherwise not do. Second, if you meet him for drinks, he may think he has an alibi if you were to claim sexual harassment--calling is consensual. And lastly he may believe in a bar type setting there won't be any witnesses and therefore his conduct will be unprovable.

What the boss may not realize is that just because you agree to have a drink with him, it doesn't make it consensual. The boss has a great deal of control over you and asking you to have a drink and talk about business puts you in a very tough spot. This is especially true if you are on a business trip and staying in the same hotel. It makes it easy for the boss to say meet me in the hotel bar and we can talk about the meeting tomorrow. Remember that you have rights and don't feel that the boss can do what he wants and you have no recourse. I have filed many cases with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") on similar circumstances and have been very successful. Protect yourself and make sure you understand your employment rights in Illinois.

October 16, 2011

Discrimination Based On Military Status

In Illinois it is against the law to discrimination against a person because of their military status. This means that if you are in the national guard or military reserve an employer can't refuse to hire you or otherwise engage in discrimination. A person that believes he is being discriminated against in Chicago or other parts of Illinois can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). You are probably wondering why a company would not want to hire a person in the military? Some employers are very money oriented and see a person who is serving his country as an employee that will be gone often and the company may have to fill the position while the person is gone--and they just don't want the hassle.

I know this is a sad reason but it happens. Can you imagine not hiring a person who is fighting and ready to die for his country? Corporations in this country are getting more crazy and hostile. It is very important that you realize you have rights and these big corporations can't get away with this behavior. If people want to play hard ball, lets get a bigger bat and play hard ball right back.

October 14, 2011

Using Text Messages To Prove Sexual Harassment

With the explosion of texting that is taking place throughout the country and by all age groups it is no surprise that text messages are playing an important role in sexual harassment cases. My Chicago office as well as my downstate office are seeing rising numbers of sexual harassment cases where text messages are the key piece of evidence. There are a few reasons why this is the case. First, the text messages will show the number called and the number that made the call. Because a phone is attributed to a person, this will be conclusive evidence of who sent the text message and what was said. Text messages also don't change their minds or get scared to cooperate with sexual harassment investigations. People on the other hand change their minds and refuse to cooperate sometimes.

Many times I can settle a sexual harassment or other form of discrimination case quickly at the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") by showing the other attorney a copy of the text messages along with a demand letter. By settling the case at the IDHR, it saves both parties time and money--and it allows the victim of discrimination to put the entire unpleasant matter behind her.

October 13, 2011

Illinois Department of Human Rights Mediation

In Illinois if you are the victim of discrimination you can file a complaint directly with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). One of the great things about filing directly with the IDHR is a program they have on mediation. If both parties agree, the IDHR will assign the case to a mediator and try to get both parties together to settle the case. Many of you will wonder why should you let the case go to mediation. The fact of the matter is most cases settle at some point prior to a trial. Given that fact, why wait to settle when you can settle early. There are many risks with delay. For example the company could file for bankruptcy, you could move across the country or you could even die. Remember, a case will take four or five years before you receive any money if it isn't settled prior to trial.

My Chicago office handles a large number of sexual harassment cases and many times the company doesn't want the details coming out. You can imagine some of the steamy details that may emerge in such cases. Additionally, the company will have to spend money on a lawyer defending the case. So there are reasons why both sides will want an early resolution of the case. It helps to have an experienced employment attorney who practices before the IDHR and has many cases at that venue. Remember there are very strict time limits for filing your initial complaint with the IDHR so consult an attorney as soon as possible to protect your employment and civil rights.

October 12, 2011

Chicago Hostile Work Environments At Work

In Chicago the number of hostile work environment complaints seems to be on the rise. The reason for the hostile work environments seems unclear but one reason may be the current state of the economy. There is no general hostile work environment in Illinois so the hostile environment must be based on a form of discrimination. The Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") investigates violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act which covers over 15 categories of discrimination. The most common form in Illinois seems to be sexual harassment and racial discrimination.

There must be a good understanding of your rights as an employee in Chicago. The rights you have cannot be taken away by the company and unless you understand the rights and take affirmative steps to protect them, they will be lost. There are strict time limits for filing a complaint with the IDHR so it is important to speak with an employment lawyer who is skilled in this field.

October 11, 2011

Sexual Harassment And Human Resources

There is a dirty little secret regarding sexual harassment investigations within corporations. Let's take the following example to illustrate what I mean. Suzy the secretary gets sexually harassed by Bob the boss. The sexual harassment includes comments about how sexy she looks, and about her body. It is obvious the boss wants to have sex with her. Suzy reports this conduct to human resources under the corporations sexual harassment policy. Now here is what Suzy doesn't know but should. In Illinois she has 180 days from the date of the last sexual harassing incident to file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or 300 days with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Those are strict time limits also known as statutes of limitations. Miss those deadlines by even one day and Suzy's case is lost. No matter how much of a hostile work environment was created she will be unable to pursue her case once the 300 days has past.

You ask why that is important? The answer is simple, many times corporate human resource departments know about the strict time limits and use them to their advantage by dragging out investigations. The human resource department will say they have to interview witnesses, gather documents, meet with various people. They may claim people are out of the office or on vacation. All the while the clock is ticking. They may make an initial report and ask Suzy to comment on it or submit other information and before you know it the 300 days has past and Suzy is out of luck. This is why it is very important to get an employment lawyer involved early in the process. The preferred method for Suzy would be to file a complaint with the IDHR--and they will cross-file with the EEOC. The corporation can still conduct their investigation during this time, but Suzy will have protection and leverage.

October 9, 2011

Sexual Orientation Discrimination and Social Media

Many corporations today employ an Internet search of prospective job applications as part of the employment process. Typically someone from human resources will do a Google search for the prospective employees name and see what is "out there" regarding the prospective employee. I believe this is a very dangerous and unwise practice and opens the corporation up to discrimination claims that would otherwise not exist. Lets take the following example. A gay man applies for a job and obviously his sexual orientation is not known at the time of his employment application. The corporation then conducts an Internet search and finds his Facebook page. Upon reviewing the Facebook page, the human resources representative sees picture of the applicant with his gay male boyfriend. Lets further say that the gay man doesn't get the job he applied for. What's the big deal you say? Well employment law may end up making the corporation wish it didn't engage in this practice.

Well, the gay man may now file a sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit based on not being hired because he is gay. If the corporation never did the Internet search this claim would not exist because the corporation could say we had no idea the man was gay. However, once they "snoop" on the Internet and find out he is gay, the corporation is now in a position where they knew the man was gay when they made their employment decision. This allows the gay man to file a discrimination charge based on sexual orientation with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). So I believe it is a bad idea for corporations to conduct background type checks on the Internet for prospective employees.

October 7, 2011

Does Yelling Create A Hostile Work Environment In Illinois?

My Chicago offices gets many calls from people inquiring into whether they can file a discrimination complaint based on what they perceive as a hostile work environment. The facts are usually the same. The boss is always yelling and screaming at everyone including the person who contacted my office. The yelling may include profanity and humiliating words. Although this behavior should not take place in the workplace it does. The question is does this conduct rise to the level of discrimination in Illinois? The short answer is no. In the past year the Illinois legislature defeated a bill that would have created a general harassment or bullying law. Under that law this type of activity would have resulted in a discrimination complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”). But as I said that proposed law was defeated.

Now I said the short answer to the question was no but that can turn into a yes under certain circumstances. For example if the boss yells and screams at you and no other workers, perhaps you are being singled out because of your gender, race, national origin etc. Or if the boss only yells at females there could be a gender discrimination case. The point being there may be other facts that could turn general yelling and screaming into a valid discrimination case. Remember that in Illinois there is no general harassment law and therefore more directed type discrimination must take place before you can file a complaint with the IDHR.

September 25, 2011

Sexual Harassment Investigations

Here is a scenario that is all to familiar. An employee reports sexual harassment to management or to human resources and as a result starts to get treated in a hostile manner. What will generally happen is management will let the complaint leak out to the other employees and the employee who reported the sexual harassment will now start to experience a hostile work environment from the other employees. Of course in order to do a proper investigation it may be necessary to give details including the reporting employees name. But in many cases a discreet investigation can take place protecting the identity of the employee who is reporting the sexual harassment.

Another issue that comes up with people who report sexual harassment in the workplace is the person doing the harassing may be friends with other managers or employees. In this instance the other employees or managers start to treat the person reporting sexual harassment in a negative way because they view this as an attack on their friend. When this type of activity occurs it is very important to file a complaint with either the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). I prefer to file with the IDHR because they cross-file with the EEOC so you can get two for one. Additionally, the IDHR is mandated by law to complete their investigation within one-year and the EEOC is not. So for my money, the IDHR is the way to go.

September 17, 2011

Sexual Harassment Lawsuits In Chicago

I often get asked about what to do if you are the victim of sexual harassment at work? There are several options that are available to you. First you can file with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). Second, you can file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Lastly, if you are in Chicago, you can file with the Chicago Department of Human Rights. I always file with the IDHR because they cross-file with the EEOC so you get a two-for-one. And the IDHR is mandated by law to complete an investigation within one year. It is always in the best interest of the employee to have the case settled sooner rather than later so the IDHR helps with the settlement process because the investigate the complaint quickly.

There are many things to keep in mind that will affect your case. First, don't talk about your case with anyone. Second, don't post things about your case online. Many times people post things on Facebook or Tweet about their case. This is not a good idea and something said online could be used against you in the case. If you are complaining that the sexual harassment created a hostile work environment and then you engage in similar activity online, it will hurt your case. The bottom line is to keep quiet and just talk about your case with your attorney.

September 12, 2011

Cake Shop Sued For Sexual Harassment

ABC Cake Shop & Bakery is being sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") for sexual harassment. The sexual harassment took place at work and involved a large group of female workers including teenagers. According to published accounts one of the owners would make sexual comments and engaged in unwelcome touching which created a hostile work environment for the female workers.

Some of the women who could not tolerate the sexual harassment were forced to quit their jobs which is commonly referred to as a constructive discharge. I will be following this case and I believe the women will receive a nice settlement as a result of what took place. It is very tough on employees when the person doing the harassment is the owner. Who do you report that to? The answer is you file a complaint with the EEOC or other state agency and proceed that way. In Illinois you can file with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR does a better job of quickly investigating complaints of discrimination.

"Employers of all sizes have an important responsibility to maintain a workplace that is free of sexual harassment.” said EEOC attorney Elizabeth Cadle
September 9, 2011

Arizona Logistics Pays $175,000 To Settle Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Arizona Logistics, Inc. will pay $175,000 to five former employees to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the former employees by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The EEOC is one of the places you can file a sexual harassment lawsuit. The other place in Illinois is the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR").

According to published accounts former Regional Director Mark Berault sexually harassed the five former employees. What is even worse, Berault sexually assaulted several of the women. That is incredible that this was taking place during business hours. Berault also engaged in unwelcome touching and indecent exposure. Of course this also created a hostile work environment for every employee. Glad the company had to pay and hope it smartens up and institutes some good sexual harassment policies in the future.

“This was an outrageous case of sexual harassment involving a supervisor who preyed upon vulnerable female employees, subjecting them to some of the most extreme forms of sexual harassment,” said EEOC Attorney Mary J. O’Neill.
September 6, 2011

Hostile Work Environment Can't Be Based on General Harassment

I get many calls at my Chicago office about general harassment type questions. The boss yells at everyone or the boss is always slamming things around the office. In short, people call and say the boss is just an ass. The problem in Illinois is there is no general harassment law. People think that if the boss acts this way it is the basis of a hostile work environment. In Illinois it is not. In order to have a hostile work environment you need a basis of discrimination. For example, the boss is yelling at me because I am female--gender discrimination, or the boss is yelling at me because I am black--racial discrimination. If the boss is just a jerk, there is no case. Your only option at that point is to quit. The legislature tried to pass a law that would have covered this type of behavior but it failed.

What I suggest you do is evaluate whether or not there is some other reason why the boss is always yelling at you or throwing things. Is it because you are female? Are you the only person in your office that this is happening to ? So even though it may seem like he is just being a jerk, perhaps he is really discriminating against you based on a protected category. It is free to call my office and discuss the issue so why not ? You should work hard to protect your rights and not let the boss get away with this type of behavior.

Continue reading "Hostile Work Environment Can't Be Based on General Harassment" »

September 5, 2011

Sexual Harassment and College Professors

Well it's time for college students to head back to school. This could present problems for both students and the college. There are more cases of sexual harassment directed against Universities than most people think. The reason for this is that many college professors have sex with their students. You would think the colleges and universities would have strict policies against this type of behavior, but they only seem to give it lip service. There are many college professors that get caught having sex with students and they are still allowed to teach. It is amazing that this practice continues, but it does. When a college professor has sex with a student it could create a hostile work environment for all students if the students are involved with a work type program.

My Chicago office is constantly getting calls from students who had sex with their college professor. Many times the relationship is deemed consensual by the university administration but how can you have a truly consensual relationship with the teacher/student dynamic? I alway file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") instead of with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The reason for this is that the IDHR cross-files with the EEOC and the IDHR is mandated by law for complete an investigation within one-year. Also, the IDHR seems to do a better job at conducting a timely investigation.

September 2, 2011

Sexual Orientation and a Hostile Work Environment

There is no general harassment law in Illinois. This means if you are just being treated badly by the boss--too bad. However, if you are being treated in a discriminatory way that is a different story. So for example if the boss is treating you terrible and also calling you gay and making anti-homosexual comments that would form the basis for a sexual orientation discrimination claim. The claim could be filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). I prefer to file with the IDHR because the are mandated to investigate within one year and they are required to cross-file with the EEOC.

Along with the person being discriminated against, other employees may also be in a hostile work environment as a result of what is taking place. The reason for this is when conduct is taking place that is discriminatory it affects all employees. Also, if there is an investigation, other employees can get dragged into it and then have negative job actions taken against them for cooperating during the investigation. Even though we are at a point in time where the state of Illinois allows for civil unions between same sex couples, there is still a great deal of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Continue reading "Sexual Orientation and a Hostile Work Environment" »

August 30, 2011

Hostile Work Environment Can't Be Based On General Harassment In Illinois

In the State of Illinois there is no such thing as general harassment. The legislature tried unsuccessfully to pass a bullying in the workplace law but it was defeated. What that means is if your boss is just a general jerk and yells and screams there isn't much you can do other than quit. Unless the hostile work environment is created because of sexual harassment, age discrimination or other forms of recognized discrimination you can't file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") or the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). If the hostile work environment is being created based on a discriminatory category you can file directly with either the IDHR or EEOC--although I recommend hiring an employment lawyer on contingency to file on your behalf and to protect your rights.

My Chicago offices gets many calls from employee who are the victims of general harassment and unfortunately there isn't much I can do. However it is always a good idea to call my office or the office of an employment attorney to discuss because sometimes even though the boss is being a jerk and it seems like a general harassment case, he may only be yelling at you because you are the only female or only gay employee in which instance you may have a case.

August 29, 2011

Sexual Harassment Cases In Illinois And Text Messages

Are text messages a good form of proof in sexual harassment cases? Yes, they are very good forms of evidence. The text message will show the phone numbers of both people involved in the exchange as well as the content and date. In Illinois my office files cases of sexual harassment with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). When filing I will attach copies of the text messages to show the actual sexual harassment that was taking place. Many times the person doing the harassment will deny that any sexual harassment took place so it is important attach copies of text messages so the company management or company attorney can see what has actually taken place.

My Chicago office is also seeing more hostile work environment cases where instant messages are being used to sexually harass someone. Again, it is very important to print out these messages and save them--saving them electronically is also good. The amount that is paid by a company to settle a sexual harassment or hostile work environment case will increase greatly if there is proof of the discrimination. Technology is working to the advantage of employees and it is important to protect your rights by saving incriminating evidence.

August 26, 2011

Briggs Equipment Inc. Settles Racial Discrimination Lawsuit For $112,000

Briggs Equipment, Inc. pays $112,000 to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit was first filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and alleged that Bobby Wysong was subjected to racial discrimination when he was terminated from his position as a technician because of his race, black. A company cannot take an adverse action against an employee based on his race or other protected category. In Illinois this type of activity could result in a complaint being filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") as well as the EEOC.

According to published accounts Briggs subjected Wysong to a hostile work environment by employees calling Briggs various derogatory names. The main culprit was management employee Mario Rodriguez who referred to Wysong as a “n----r,” “slave” and “dark horse” in conjunction with expressly stating he wanted Wysong fired. The amazing thing was Rodriguez admitted to the comments and other employees also came forward to corroborate the story.

EEOC attorney Eduardo Juarez said “Not only have we obtained significant financial relief for Bobby Wysong, the employment practices that Briggs uses will be greatly improved. No one should have to put up with racial abuse in their place of work – or, even worse, losing his livelihood because of racism.”

Continue reading "Briggs Equipment Inc. Settles Racial Discrimination Lawsuit For $112,000" »

August 16, 2011

Marital Status Inquiry A Form Of Discrimination

In Illinois it is a violation of the law for an employer to inquire as to your marital status. Many people will say that this sounds odd and what is the big deal? Well the problem with asking about the marital status is two fold. First, an employer may decide that a single person may be less stable or may have a harder time juggling home and kids with work. Second, and employer doesn't have a need to know your personal business. Whether you are married or not doesn't have anything to do with your job.

If you are being asked these types of questions or if you are not being promoted because you are a single mother you can contact my office and we can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). Any claim filed with the IDHR will be cross-filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") but the IDHR will take the lead in investigation. Any form of discrimination also creates a hostile work environment for workers and should be addressed. Other forms of discrimination get more headlines and are more familiar to people but marital status discrimination is actionable in Illinois.

August 1, 2011

Hostile Work Environments In Illinois

In Illinois a hostile work environment exists for all employees if the atmosphere is so negatively charged that the employee cannot perform his or her work properly because another employee has been subjected tot sexual harassment or another form of discrimination. Many times employees get caught up in a sexual harassment investigation and as a result of the investigation, something negative happens to them. For example, after truthfully telling their version of events, the employee is then targeted by a manager or perhaps fired. This would be a form of retaliation and in Illinois it is a form of discrimination.

I suggest that all employees contact an employment law attorney if they are involved in a sexual harassment investigation and believe they are being targeted by human resources or management. Remember you have a short time period from the date of the harassment or discrimination to file a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") or the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). My office handles claims at both locations and I offer a free consultation. Make sure you protect your rights.

July 18, 2011

Sexual Harassment Witnesses

My Chicago offices gets many questions about what can happen to a witness in a sexual harassment or other discrimination case. The good news is an employee who comes forward and speaks truthfully about what he or she saw is protected from retaliation from the company. If any negative job action were to occur against an employee who comes forward, that employee would have a claim of retaliation against he company. That claim could be filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").

It is very important to speak with an attorney early in the process to determine your rights and to make sure you have the proper protections in place. Don't forget the company has attorneys and human resource personnel to protect their interests. You need to have someone fighting for your rights and interests. If you have a witness to your sexual harassment, I suggest you have the witness contact the same attorney you are utilizing so that the proper protections can be put in place.

June 28, 2011

Sexual Harassment and Human Resources

My Chicago offices gets deluged with calls about employees who complain about sexual harassment and report it to human resources. The problem is human resources has its loyalty to the company not the employee. The people at human resources usually try to circle the wagons and keep the employee from filing a formal complaint with either the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") or the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The time limits for filing a sexual harassment complaint with the EEOC is 300 days and 180 for the IDHR. By stalling an investigation or claiming to be handling the situation, those time limits can pass quickly.

So where does this leave the employee when the time limits pass? Well in short you are out of luck. It is very important to contact my office or another attorney to get advice as soon as you are the victim of sexual harassment. The other problem is sometimes an employee will become the victim of retaliation once they file their sexual harassment complaint. Human Resources may be friendly with the harassing person or may be afraid of the persons position or other contacts in the company. Again, don't rely on human resources if you have been the victim of sexual harassment--contact an attorney.

June 25, 2011

Discrimination Based on Skin Color

My chicago offices gets many inquiries about the difference between racial discrimination and discrimination based on color. Even though there is an overlap between race and color they are not the same. Color discrimination can occur between persons of different races or ethnicities, or between persons of the same race or ethnicity. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") investigate color discrimination. It is interesting to note that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") does not define color but the the courts and the EEOC define color to have its commonly understood meaning – pigmentation, complexion, or skin shade or tone.

In short color discrimination occurs when a person is discriminated against based on the lightness, darkness, or other color characteristic of the person. Title VII prohibits color discrimination against all persons, including Caucasians. Many people don't realize this nuance in the law but it does exist. When the IDHR or EEOC are investigating a claim of color discrimination, they utilize a different standard than the circuit or federal courts. They apply the same standard of proof to all race or color discrimination claims, regardless of the victim’s race or the type of evidence used.

June 20, 2011

Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Claims

In most cases a claim of sexual harassment will be followed by a claim of retaliation because most companies seem to shoot the messenger. A person comes forward with a claim of sexual harassment and human resources usually either doesn't take the claim seriously or then looks into how they can dig up dirt and discipline the person being harassed. It is very important to contact human resources by email so that you have a paper trail of what took place and you can prove you complained.

Remember that you only have 180 days from the last date of sexual harassment to file a claim with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or 300 days with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). If you file with the IDHR they will automatically file with the EEOC. Sometimes a company will drag out its' investigation past the 180 and 300 day time limits in order to prevent the employee from asserting their rights. Make sure you don't allow this to happen.

June 11, 2011

Illinois Sexual Harassment Cases Have Strict Time Limits For Filing

In Illinois a person must file a charge of discrimination based on sexual harassment with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") within 180 days from the date of the last instance of ongoing sexual harassment. If the person misses the 180 days, she can file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") within 300 days from the last date of the ongoing sexual harassment. Personally I prefer to file with the IDHR because they are mandated to complete an investigation within one year from the date of filing and the EEOC has no such mandate.

I also like the fact that the investigators for the IDHR are active and work to settle cases through mediation or the fact-finding conference process. The IDHR has three locations, Chicago, Springfield and Marion, Illinois. My office handles all three locations and I am very good at obtaining settlements prior to trial. In my opinion it is better to obtain a settlement early in the process for several reasons. First, in the instance of a sexual harassment claim, you can put the horrible incident behind you and move on with your life. Second, you get guaranteed money as opposed to waiting and perhaps having the company file for bankruptcy protection or go out of business.

June 6, 2011

Sexual Harassment Lawsuits Often Settled

There is a myth out there that most sexual harassment cases go to trial and there is a large verdict. One reason for this myth is the fact that most big cases get publicity and are reported in the various medias. Cases that settle for millions often make the news and give people a false sense of the true value of most sexual harassment cases. The average case does not settle for big money but settling the case is often good for a number of reasons. First, it gives closure to the victim and helps the person get on with her life. Second, it gives a guarantee of some money and lasty it can be taken as a victory-the fact that the other side paid some money. Most sexual harassment cases also involve retaliation and the creation of a hostile work environment.

The danger in taking a sexual harassment or other type of case to trial is that by the time the case goes to trial, the company could be out of business or bankrupt. The reason it takes so long is that if you file with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") they cross file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The IDHR has up to one-year to complete its' investigation and that only gives you the right to file directly with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") if the IDHR finds substanial evidence. It will take another year with the IHRC before the actual trial and a decision by the judge after trial can take another two-years. If the EEOC investigates instead of the IDHR, it can take even longer. So if you can setttle.

June 5, 2011

Hostile Work Environments On The Rise

The number of cases involving the creation of a hostile work environment in Illinois seems to be on the rise. My Chicago office is reporting an increase in the number of hostile work environment cases based on sexual harassment. If you are the victim of such a case my office will file a complaint on your behalf with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and that complaint will be automatically cross-filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). There are many reasons for the increase but the biggest is probably the lack of respect employers seems to convey to their employees.

The economy has been down for so long that employers believe they can do whatever they want to employees and nothing will happen. The employers believe they can easily replace the employee and therefore they falsely believe they are untouchable. I am here to tell you they are not. If you believe you are the victim of a hostile work environment based on sexual harassment or another form of discrimination please contact either of my offices. I hold many companies responsible for their actions and I can help you.

May 15, 2011

Sexual Harassment Lawsuits On The Rise

Well the results are in. The number of sexual harassment lawsuits filed by my office in 2011 has increased over 2010. Other attorneys I talk with are seeing an increase as well. Of course if you file a complaint of sexual harassment in Illinois, you can file with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and that agency will cross-file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). I find that the IDHR does a good job of investigating the claim of sexual harassment and also of helping with settlement talks.

Along with claims of sexual harassment I also see a number of retaliation claims. What happens is an employee complains to management about sexual harassment and is then fired or had another type of negative job action take against him. Usually this type of action is very transparent. The employee is a good worker, complains and is then fired. It looks so obvious. My Chicago office is seeing a real increase in the number of retaliation claims.

May 13, 2011

Hyundai Ideal Electric Company Pays $188,000 To Settle Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

Hyundai Ideal Electric Company ("HIEC") coughs up $188,000 to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of a female drafter, Tabitha Wagner. According to accounts which have been made public, Wagner was an experienced drafter and was hired for a job preparing drawings and sketches for batteries and engines. The problem was she was being paid a lower salary than that of a similarly situated male who was hired only months later. Wagner did what most would consider the right thing. She brought the disparity to the attention of the human resources manager, and was subsequently fired as retaliation for complaining.

This type of activity is so tranparent and isn't fooling anyone. It amazes me that companies still behavior like this. Why didn't they just bring her pay in line with her male counterpart? I am glad she stuck up for herself and filed a complaint with the EEOC. In Illinois you can also file with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and that organization will cross file with the EEOC.

“The EEOC will not tolerate discriminatory pay practices,” said Debra Lawrence, EEOC attorney.
May 8, 2011

Proposed Changes To Illinois Human Rights Act

My Chicago office files many complaints of discrimination and sexual harassment with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The process for filing with the IDHR is governed by the Illinois Human Rights Act ("Act"). Currently the Illinois Assembly is taking a look at updating the Act by proposing two significant changes to the Act. Under the current procedure, a company has 60 days to file a verified response with the IDHR. The new proposal would cut that time down to 30 days. Second, the new proposal would eliminate the fact-finding conference.

I have no problem with the 30 day proposal but do not agree with cutting the fact-finding conference. At the fact-finding conference both sides have an opportunty to get a look at the other sides evidence and person presenting the evidence. In my opinion this increases the chance of settlement and also allows the employee to see what they are up against. For this reason I am opposed to the change and hope the assembly does not approve it. Discrimination cases affected include retaliation and discrimination that creates a hostile work environment.

Continue reading "Proposed Changes To Illinois Human Rights Act" »

May 1, 2011

Warehouse Company DB Schenker Sued For Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work Environment

Angela McDonald and nine other warehouse workers filed a lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") against DB Schenker alleging sexual harassment, the creatiion of a hostile work environment and racial discrimination. The problems include co-workers flying Confederate flags, KKK scrawled in the bathrooms and swastikas drawn on the coffee machine and walls. McDonald complained to management but nothing was done to take down the offensive material or to put a stop to it.

The warehouse is located in Joliet Illinois and there is an increase in Illinois in the number of discrimination claims filed with the EEOC and the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The sexual harassment included one woman being chased around the warehouse by a male co-worker who was trying to have sex with her. Not only was the male not disciplined but he was promoted into another job. This is the type of behavior by management that makes people file charges of discrimination. This blog will follow the lawsuit and report as information becomes available.

“When I’m leaving at one in the morning, there is no security and I know there are people who are hateful and prejudiced in the building,” McDonald said. “I’m afraid of someone hurting me.”

Continue reading "Warehouse Company DB Schenker Sued For Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work Environment" »

April 13, 2011

Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Facts

Sexual harassment seems to be a growing problem for employees. It ends up being a double whamy. First, they are exposed to the sexual harassment and then usually to retaliation for reporting the sexual harassment. Unfortunately, many companies don't seem to spend the time properly training their human resource staff on how best to handle a sexual harassment complaint. I see many employees in my office who have been the victim of conduct that rises to the level of sexual harassment and then they report the conduct to human resources, only to be terminated. There seems to be a sense that if you rock the boat in a company, you get thrown off.

It is very important for employees to seek the advice of an experienced sexual harassment and employment law attorney once they first encounter a problem. The employee must realize that human resources is concerned with the best interest of the company and not necessarily the best interest of the employee. There are strict time limits in place for filing a complaint of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). For sexual harassment the complaint must be filed with the IDHR within 180 days and for the EEOC 300 days. Don't let the companies human resource department drag out an investigation and make you miss those filing dates.

April 11, 2011

Carole Pannozzo Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit For $30,000

Carole Pannozzo filed a sexual harassment complaint against her boss Robert Henry alleging that Henry made sexual comments to her and tried to have a sexual relationship with her. Pannozzo also alleged that when she complained, Henry engaged in retaliation by giving her a bad performance review. That case has now been settled and Pannozzo will received $30,000. Pannozzo held the title of executive director of human resources

The sexual harassment complaint was filed with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities which is similar to the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). This case shows that if you are willing to stand up for your rights and not get pushed around, you can get compensation. Even though the employer is claiming there was no wrongdoing, the settlement amount speaks for itself.

City Attorney Mark T. Anastasi said the settlement was reached to avoid costly litigation and what he called the "vagaries of a jury trial."


April 3, 2011

Hostile Work Environment Lawsuit Settled For $25,000

The city of Attleboro paid $25,000 to settle a hostile work environment and racial discrimination lawsuit with Vincent Bailey, an African-American firefighter. Because of the allegations against the city and specifically against the supervising officer, Bailey will not have to report to him in the future. The Sun Chronicle reports there is a gag order in affect and neither side is commenting, however a freedom of information request did get some information. The case was filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination ("MCAD") which is similar to the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"), and the federal counterpart the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").

According to reports in the Sun Chronicle, allegations include supervisor Perkins making racially based derogatory comments, such as:

"Vinny, while you're here, why don't you shine my shoes?"

These types of comments are not acceptable in the workplace and I am glad to see Mr. Bailey hold the city accountable. There were also five witnesses to the comments so it wasn't just a case of one person's word against anothers. This type of behavior not only makes work difficult for the person who is the target of the comments but it creates a hostile work environment for the other employees. You can imagine how uncomfortable it makes everyone at work.

March 28, 2011

Lanlord Sued For Sexual Harassment

Rawland Leon Sorensen, the owner and manager of more than 50 residential rental properties in Bakersfield is being sued for sexual harassment in violation of the Fair Housing Act. In Illinois a landlord could also be sued for sexual harassment under the Illinois Human Rights Act and specifically under the public accomodation provision. The claim would be filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR").

According to published reports the victim alleges Sorensen sexually harassed female tenants by making unwelcome sexual comments. Some of the details include Sorensen exposing his genitals to female tenants. Sorensen would allegedly take adverse actions against women who refused his sexual advances. So another words he would engage in retaliation if a women did not obey him.

“No person should have to fear sexual harassment from a landlord who holds a key to their home.” said attorney Thomas E. Perez
March 23, 2011

Former Grayville Illinois Mayor Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit For $17,500

Former Grayville Illinois Mayor Henry S. Kijonka paid $17,500 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit involving former city employee Shelly Osborne. The city ended up paying the settlement amount which is common in these types of cases. According to published accounts Osborne alleged that on a number of occasions Kijonka came up behind her and kissed her on the neck, massaged her shoulders and reached his hands down the front of her sweater.

A problem that can arise in a case like this is witnesses. Many times the person doing the harassment will do it one-on-one and there won't be anyone to witness what took place. I suspect because of the low settlement amount, that is what happened here. I am glad to see Osborne file a complaint and hold the Mayor accountable. Hopefully, the city puts in place a sexual harassment policy and better supervises its' employees.

Continue reading "Former Grayville Illinois Mayor Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit For $17,500" »

March 10, 2011

Sexual Harassment By College Professor

It seems that these days going to college will get a female student more than an education. Recently Central Connecticut State University's former chief diversity officer Moises Salinas pleaded no contest to sexually assaulting one of his students. In Illinois if a student has this happen they can file a sexual harassment complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR").

According to published accounts, Salinas put his tongue down the throat of student Krystal Rich, now 23 and also he grabbed her crotch while he was trying to kiss her. It is amazing that these types of people are hired by colleges.

Judge Strackbein told Salinas that when parents send their children to college, they reasonably expect that professors will not abuse their authority or position and try to take advantage of students.
February 13, 2011

Sexual Harassment Lawsuits On The Rise

It looks like 2011 is starting off with an increase in the number of sexual harassment complaints filed with the Illinois Department Of Human Rights ("IDHR") and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), at least by my office. There are probably good reasons for the increases, including the fact that employers are feeling with a high unemployment rate, they can treat employees in a poor fashion. Many times along with filing a complaint of sexual harassment, I also file a charge of retaliation. This happens because the employor will fire or take other negative action against an employee when they complain of being the victim of sexual harassment.

It is very important for people to realize that in Illinois they have 180 days from the last date of the sexual harassment or retaliation to file with the IDHR. They do have 300 days from the last date for file with the EEOC, but in my experience it is better to file with the IDHR as they actually investigate the charge. In any case it is very important to speak with an attorney and discuss the details of your case. Even if you just wish to settle the case quickly, you probably won't be taken seriously if you are not represented by counsel.

February 1, 2011

Two Bloomington-Normal Public Transit System Workers File Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Two Bloomington-Normal Public Transit System employees filed sexual harassment complaints against General Manager Jeffrey Logan with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). According to published accounts one employee alleged that Logan touched her arms during a meeting and her lower back while she was at a copier. The second employee said she complained of being sexually harassed on three separate occasions prior to filing her complaint with the IDHR.

Both employees said that when they complained, they were placed on administrative leave. If a company or organization takes a negative job action against an employee who complains about sexual harassment it could form the basis for an additional claim of retaliation. The case seems to be getting interesting as now Logan has been placed on administrative leave following a board meeting. Usually at this point the parties would explore settlement discussions and hopefully settle the case prior to a fact-finding conference by the IDHR.

Logan said he had no comment about the complaints.
January 24, 2011

Lesbian Fitness Instructors File Hostile Work Environment Lawsuit Against Gym Owner

Deborah Cooke and Christina Rodino both lesbian fitness instructors filed a lawsuit claiming discrimination based on sexual orientation and the creation of a hostile work environment against gym owner David Barton and his gym David Barton Gym. According to published accounts both women were fired after they put up with antigay comments and sexual harassment. Some of the details of the lawsuit include allegations that Cooke was called Lesbian Deb and asked by a male coworker whether she was going to strap on a penis tonight.

When the women complained about the discrimination the owner fired them which would constitute retaliation. There are facts in this case which indicate the gym had a large gay membership and this type of behavior is not only illegal if proven but also from a business standpoint stupid. This blog will keep track of the lawsuit and post updates when they happen. My guess is the case will settle prior to trial like most lawsuits do.

They both claim they were asked to “engage in sexual relations with another woman at the workplace."


Continue reading "Lesbian Fitness Instructors File Hostile Work Environment Lawsuit Against Gym Owner" »

January 23, 2011

Trial At The Illinois Human Rights Commission Not The Only Alternative

If you have been the victim of sexual harassment, a hostile work environment or retaliation you have options after your case has been found to have substantial evidence by the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). You can proceed to trial before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") at the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") or you can file a complaint in the circuit court of the county where the discrimination took place. There is an additional tactical consideration. If the basis for the sexual harassment were say events that can also be alleged in a complaint of intentional infliction of emotional distress, you could file a complaint with the IHRC and a separate complaint in the circuit court for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.

The basis for being able to file this additional complaint is found in a variety of court decisions. In Pavilon v. Kaferly, 561 N.E. 2d 1245, 204 Ill. App. 3d 235 (Ill. App. 1 Dist. 1990), the court held that the tort of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress required proof of more than was required for sexual harassment and served a different policy than that served by the Human Rights Act, therefore the claim was not preempted by the Human Rights Act. For this reason one could give consideration to whether there are facts sufficient to file a complaint for trial with the IHRC and also a claim in circuit court for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress. Such a claim needs to prove, the conduct involved is truly extreme and outrageous; second, the actor must either intend that his conduct inflict severe emotional distress, or know that there is at least a high probability that his conduct will cause severe emotional distress; lastly, the conduct must in fact cause severe emotional distress.

January 2, 2011

Former Apple Employment Files Lawsuit In Illinois For Disability Discrimination

Former Apple employee Nicole Sutton filed a discrimination lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Illinois alleging Apple discriminated against her in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA"). The allegations include negative job actions after treatment by a psychiatrist for a nervous disorder, the company keeping her in limbo without duties for several months because of the disability and Sutton being denied a promotion after Apple questioned her mental stability.

The complaint says that she was not mentally ill and she was constructively discharged by Apple’s actions. A constructive discharge occurs when an employee is under such harsh conditions that she must quit and therefore it is treated as a termination by the company if able to be proved. Sutton also claims she suffered humiliation, emotional distress and is seeking $300,000 in damages.

Sutton said "her medical condition was improperly disclosed to Apple store personnel by the company handling her disability claim."

Continue reading "Former Apple Employment Files Lawsuit In Illinois For Disability Discrimination" »

January 1, 2011

Illinois Wal-Mart Sued For Sexual Harassment

Roben Hall filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Wal-Mart and it is headed for a trial before the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") on February 11, 2011. Hall claims she was subjected to sexual harassment while working as an overnight stocker for Wal-Mart. To make matters worse for Wal-Mart they fired Hall and according to published reports have threatened additional legal action against her if she continues with this lawsuit--claiming she is acting in bad faith.

In this case the sexual harassment alleged was between two women. Any sexual harassment can cause a hostile work environment for all workers not just the one being harassed. Also in Illinois one must first file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") before the case ever makes it to the IHRC. Even though the case is scheduled for trial soon, unless a pre-trial statement is filed in advance and neither party files a motion for discovery, the case trial date will only act as a first status hearing and the Judge will set discovery deadlines.

According to Hall, "one manager told her that he didn't have to investigate Hall's complaint because it involved two women."
December 26, 2010

Doctor Sued For Sexual Harassment

Dr. Edward Kleiner had a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him by three former employees who accuse him of perverse transgressions. According to published accounts the three women allege he sexted them, groped them, offered weight-loss tips, exposed his penis, and once brought an inflatable sex doll to the office.

The most unusual allegation was that he instructed a married couple to have sex in the office bathroom to produce sperm for an artificial-insemination procedure on the wife. This goes beyond creepy.

"We heard constant banging against the wall," says Samantha Romanger, a 21-year-old administrative assistant.

Then Kleiner allegedly told Romanger and another administrative assistant, Lauren Schlanger, to join him in the exam room and witness the artificial insemination.

"I refused. I said, 'I don't like this, and I don't think its legal,' " Romanger said. "He said, 'One of you are coming in the room, end of story.' I felt violated. I don't want to hear anyone having sex. And we're the ones who have to clean the office."


Continue reading "Doctor Sued For Sexual Harassment" »

December 7, 2010

Sexual Harassment and Christmas Parties

Oh tis the season to be jolly, but don't get too jolly at the Christmas (holiday) party. For some reason otherwise good employees get a little liquor in their system and act like damn fools at the Christmas party. I guess some can't handle their liquor or some just don't care. Remember at a Christmas party, lewd and sexual comments are not okay and can form the basis for a sexual harassment complaint. Probably the most damning thing that people do at these parties is sexually harass their co-worker in front of everyone. Talk about leaving some nice evidence.

It is probably a good idea for the boss to remind people that the rules and conduct apply to parties and also the boss should make sure a limited amount of alcohol is available--if any. My office sees a spike in sexual harassment cases after these types of parties and it always amazes me that a better job isn't done by management in that regard. Remember the conduct at a party can also create a hostile work environment. Complaints about sexual harassment or a hostile work environment can be filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").

November 14, 2010

Sexual Harassment Cases Increase In Illinois

My office is seeing an increase in the number of sexual harassment cases in Illinois, particularly in my Chicago office. There may be several reasons for the increase including the downturn in the economy and the pressure employees are feeling to go along with whatever is happening at work or else get fired. Because more of the sexual harassment takes place face-to-face and without witnesses it be extremely frustrating for those getting harassed. This harassment also creates a hostile work environment and can lead to a person quitting.

In Illinois you can file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") or the Illiniois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). I prefer the IDHR as they are required by statute to complete their investigation within one year and seem to be better staffed and focused on investigating the complaint. Remember there are very strict time limits for filing and it is very important to contact my office at once to review the facts of your case.

September 29, 2010

McDonalds Franchise Pays $15,000 To Settle Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

A McDonald's franchise pays an female ex-employee $15,000 to resolve her sexual harassment lawsuit which also included a charge of retaliation. Published accounts claim that cashier Gladys Rivera was subjected to consistent sexual harassment by a male co-worker for several months. She claims that a supervisor and restaurant manager knew of the sexual harassment and did nothing to stop it. She kept complaining about the sexual harassment and was terminated because she would not stop complaining. This is called retaliation.

Rivera also alleged the same co-worker slapped her on the backside and said Rivera looks good. Although McDonalds denied that Rivera was sexually harassed, several witnesses interviewed by the human rights division supported Rivera's version of events. I suspect that the additional witnesses are what caused the company to settle the case. In Illinois you can file a claim of sexual harassment with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and they will cross-file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").

Rivera alleged that a co-worker, Edwin Andujar of Newark, invited her to get together in private and "see how much of a man I am."
September 8, 2010

Illinois Church Ordered To Pay $63,045 In Sexual Harassment Case

Cheryl Lockard is awarded $63,045 in her sexual harassment and retaliation case against the Rev. Keith Jones and the First Baptist Church of Canton Illinois. The Illinois Human Rights Commission declined further review of a matter in which administrative law judge Michael Robinson ruled in favor of Lockard and issued the award. Lockard is a former employee of the church and claims she was sexually harassed by Jones and once she reported the sexual harassment the church engaged in retaliation and fired her.

The church appealled the decision by Judge Robinson with the Illinois Human Rights Commission and the Commission upheld Judge Robinson's order. Along with paying Lockard $63,045 the Church and Jones must also pay her attorney fees, issue a neutral job reference letter and clear her work record. It is unusual to file an appeal with the Illinois Human Rights Commission because of the cost involved (in legal fees) and the narrow avenue for having the Judge's ruling overturned.

Continue reading "Illinois Church Ordered To Pay $63,045 In Sexual Harassment Case" »

September 6, 2010

Former Moline Illinois Public Library Worker Gets $1 Million for Retaliation Lawsuit

Mary Clark a former Moline Public Library worker settled her retaliation lawsuit with the city of Moline for $1 million. According to published reports Clark who worked for the library for 24-years, claimed Leslie Kee a retired library director fired her in retaliation for complaints she made against the director. It all started back in 2008 when Clark complained to the library board alleging Kee was creating a hostile work environment, and acting in a vulgar and offensive manner. The lawsuit claimed that Kee and the City of Moline were discriminating based on sexual harassment, racial discrimination and national origin. In cases like this it is not unusual to have multiple claims of discrimination. She is basically saying I complained about all these types of behavior and as a result I was retaliated against by being fired.

After the complaint to the board Kee was reprimanded for her behavior and one month later, Kee recommended to the library board that Clark’s position be eliminated to save money. Clark was fired and based on the close proximity to her complaint, one could see the retaliation. The city was fighting the lawsuit but statements began to emerge that hurt the city's case and they decided to settle. You can see how important it is to have documents that are favorable to your case. In this case, a million dollar settlement was reached because of the documents.

“The city and insurance company were surprised and disappointed by the content of those statements,” city officials said.

Continue reading "Former Moline Illinois Public Library Worker Gets $1 Million for Retaliation Lawsuit" »

September 4, 2010

Chrysler Pipefitter Awarded $4.2 Million In National Origin Discrimination Lawsuit

A Rockford Illinois federal court jury found in favor of pipefitter Otto May and ordered Chrysler to pay $4.2 million to the 60-year-old. According to court testimony May endured years of harassment based on his national origin. The harassment included hateful graffiti and death threats over his Jewish and Cuban-American ethnicity. Additionally, May had his tires shredded in the parking lot by co-workers as part of the ongoing harassment. He was even denied the same overtime opportunities as other similarly situated employees.

The jury listened to the evidence for a week and awarded May $709,000 in compensatory damages and $3.5 million in punitive damages. It is nice to see someone stand up and fight back when they are being discriminated against at work. This type of discrimination at work creates a hostile work environment and makes it difficult to function.

Mr. May showed extraordinary courage and determination which paid off in the end. This case should act as a warning to companies who refuse to protect workers when they are being subjected to harassment of any kind. Congratulations Mr. May.

"I'm glad the jury believed me," said May


Continue reading "Chrysler Pipefitter Awarded $4.2 Million In National Origin Discrimination Lawsuit" »

August 11, 2010

Illinois Human Rights Act Trumps Title VII On Sexual Harassment

In Illinois it is better to file a complaint of sexual harassment with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") rather than the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The reason is because the Illinois Supreme Court held that the plain language of section 2-102 (d) of the Illinois Human Rights Act imposes strict liability on employers for the hostile environment sexual harassment of employees by supervisory employees. The strict liability applies even if the supervisor has no authority to affect the terms and conditions of the employee's employment.

The Court held that it is not unfair to hold employers responsible for sexual harassment by supervisory employees because not only are supervisors the public face of the employer, but employers are in the best position to train supervisors and make them aware of the laws prohibiting sexual harassment. If you file a complaint with the EEOC, federal law will apply and you will be held to the standards of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is a much better approach to file with the IDHR and have more employee friendly standards.

.

August 10, 2010

Filing A Sexual Harassment Complaint With The Illinois Department Of Human Rights

I get questions all the time on whether to file a complaint for sexual harassment with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). I believe there are great advantages in filing with the IDHR for certain cases and advantages for filing with the EEOC on others. First, in cases that large verdicts or settlements are unlikely due to the facts of the case, I file with the IDHR. The reason is the IDHR does a faster and more thorough job of investigating cases and bringing the case to the point where it will either settle or get set for a hearing with the Illinois Human Rights Commission.

The EEOC on the other hand does a poor job of investigating charges of sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination and in my experience it takes years for them to work the file. The advantage of filing with the EEOC is if you plan on asking for a right to sue letter and filing a lawsuit in federal court. I would only do this with the cases with the best facts. As an aside when you file with the IDHR they automatically cross-file with the EEOC. The bottom line is each case has to be evaluated on its' own merits and a determination made based on the facts of the case.

August 3, 2010

Female Police Officer Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit For $100,000

Female police officer Jennifer Gentile settles her sexual harassment lawsuit for $100,000. According to published accounts, Gentile claims she was subjected to repeated and degrading sexual harassment after she moved from the day shift to the night shift. She claims it continued after a move to the detective bureau. Gentile said officers made commnets about her breasts and one manager even said he wanted to get in her pants.

Gentile went to great lengths to avoid coming into contact with co-workers who were sexually harassing her. She eventually asked to be moved to a different shift so she could avoid being around these men. The city did not take effective steps to stop the harassment after it was reported to top management. Now that the taxpayers have to pay this large amount I am sure management wishes it stopped the sexual harassment. In Illinois a case like this would be first filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").

A police dispatcher told her he would like to "bend her over."
July 6, 2010

Proving Your Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

The only thing worst than being subjected to sexual harassment and retaliation for either reporting the sexual harassment or rejected the advances is to not be able to prove your case and therefore be left holding the bag. It is very important to have either a witness or a tangile piece of evidence that will support your allegation. I won't spend much time on the witness because if you have one, that person can speak to what happened. One thing I would say about witnesses in general are that sometimes they are reluctant to come forward because they fear for their job. The point is, sometimes you think you have witnesses but when it comes right down to it, you won't.

The next best evidence are the words from the harasser. The best way to get his words are if he leaves a voice message or is he sends you a text or email. Remember in Illinois you can't record someone without their permission. On the other hand if the person leaves a voice message, he is consenting by leaving the message so saving his message is legal and you can utilize this at trial. If your harasser sends you a text message save it and get in touch with an attorney early on so he can show you how to properly save the text message for use later on. Your case will first be filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and 90% of all cases settle so there is a good chance you will never have a trial.

Continue reading "Proving Your Sexual Harassment Lawsuit" »

July 5, 2010

Restaurant Pays $170,000 To Settle Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Chilbo Myunok USA LLC, a Korea-based food company which owns a Los Angeles restaurant and a chain of fast-food stores in Korea, pays $170,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of a class of waitresses. According to published reports the waitresses were sexually harassed at the Chilbo Myunok restaurant and four of them were forced to quit to escape the harassment--this is commonly referred to as a constructive discharge. When the harassment gets too severe and a person can no longer work because of the harassment they are forced to quit and this is a separate discriminatory act that is compensatable.

Details of the lawsuit include the victims facing continuous verbal and physical sexual harassment from the restaurant's manager. The manager, who has since been fired, repeatedly subjected the women to sexual touching with a sexual device and to unwanted hugging and kissing. The EEOC many times will take up cases where there are more than one victim and they can get more bang for the buck. If there were only one waitress the chances are the EEOC would issue a right to sue letter and the waitress would be left to hire a private attorney to continue the lawsuit. In Illinois I prefer to file directly with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") which automatically cross-files with the EEOC. I believe the IDHR does a faster and more thorough job than the EEOC of investigating individual charges.

"By working with EEOC this way, Chilbo Myunok has clearly shown its commitment to making needed changes to policies and practices to ensure equal employment opportunities for all of Chilbo Myunok's employees," said EEOC's Perry.
June 13, 2010

Filing A Sexual Harassment Complaint With The Illinois Department of Human Rights

My website lasorsalaw.com generates many inquires about sexual harassment cases in Illinois and throughout the country. Even though I have videos on the website to walk people through the steps of filing a lawsuit or complaint regarding sexual harassment, people still have many of the same questions. I hope to answer a few here with this general post. The first decision a person must make is whether to file a complaint of sexual harassment with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). With the IDHR, a person has 180 days from the date of the last sexual harassment to file a complaint, with the EEOC the person has 300 days to file a complaint of sexual harassment.

Another factor to consider is whether or not you wish to file a lawsuit in state court, federal court or have an administrative law judge at the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") decide your case. Having the IHRC decide the case is the least expensive but may take the longest. Federal court is the quickest route to take but it is also the most difficult, expensive and employment law on the federal level favors employers in my opinion. It is important to discuss all options with attorney Peter LaSorsa and see which one works best for your situation. Sometimes the amount of time since the last date of sexual harassment will dictate which way to proceed. For example if you wait 200 days to contact my office, we will have no choice but to file with the EEOC.

Continue reading "Filing A Sexual Harassment Complaint With The Illinois Department of Human Rights" »

May 21, 2010

Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders Sued For Sexual Harassment

Colleen Vesper filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Gary Moore and the Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Foundation. According to the lawsuit Moore and the Foundation made Vesper work in a hostile work environment after she refused Moore's sexual and romantic advances. Vesper had been the business manager of Fairmount Park until she lost her job last year. She claims the underlying sexual harassment issue led to the loss of her employment.

Prior to filing a lawsuit in either federal or state court, a person must first file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). It is nice to see people stand up and take a position and not let their bosses push them around. We wish Colleen Vesper the best.

May 19, 2010

Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Settled for $188,000 Against Kendall County Illinois Sheriff Department

Former Kendall County Illinois Sheriff's Department worker Lisa Easi will receive $188,000 to settle her sexual harassment lawsuit against Terry Tichava, the chief deputy in the Kendall County Sheriff's Department. Easi was a twenty year veteran of the department and was Tichava's secretary at the time she was fired.

This case was getting closer to trial and many times the defendant will start to look at the total amount it may have to pay if it losses at trial. Sexual Harassment lawsuits because of their emotional nature can produce large awards. Many times a defendant is not willing to risk the details of all the testimony coming out and the potential of a large jury verdict. With a settlement amount this large, the testimony must have been damaging and there was obviously something of substance to this lawsuit.

In Illinois before you file a sexual harassment lawsuit in fedearl court you must first file a claim of discrimination which includes sexual harassment with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") or the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). If you file with the IDHR they will automatically file with the EEOC.


March 29, 2010

Two Illinois Holiday Inn Employees File Discrimination Lawsuit

Two employees of the Elmburst Holiday Inn filed sexual orientation discrimination complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). According to public documents in the case, both men received comments from their manager based on their sexual orientation.

Apparently the manager in question is no longer working for the company but that doesn't help the two men. In Illinois complaints of discrimination are filed with either the EEOC or IDHR and if filed with the IDHR, they are cross-filed by that agency automatically with the EEOC. The amount of damages that can be awarded by the IDHR (acutally the Human Rights Commission) are lost back wages, future lost wages, medical expenses, emotional distress, attorney fees and you can ask for reinstatement if you no longer work there.

March 17, 2010

Americans with Disabilities Act Claims Rising

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") the number of discrimination complaints filed with them related to depression, anxiety and other psychiatric disorders almost doubled between 2005 and 2009. These claims would be filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). These claims can be tough to prove because the person filing the claim must prove their disability substantially impairs their life and that the accommodation they are requesting does not cause an undue burden on the employer. Nationwide in 2009 3,837 ADA complaints were filed. There have been positive court rulings recently that have helped people who file claims under this form of discrimination.

In Illinois aside from filing a claim with the EEOC for ADA discrimination, an employee can also file a claim with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR is tasked with investigating discrimination and in this type of case ADA discrimination would most likely violate
Article 5 of the Human Rights Act ("HRA") which prohibits discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of disability. There are many advantages with filing with the IDHR as opposed to the EEOC. I prefer state court and the IDHR investigates charges in a timely fashion as opposed to the EEOC.


March 13, 2010

National Origin Discrimination Lawsuit Against Rend Lake College Dismissed

A lawsuit against Rend Lake College was dismissed by a federal judge because the plaintiff Salah Shakir was not able to provide evidence of unlawful activity by the Illinois community college. Shakir claimed discrimination based on national origin by an administrator who retaliated against Shakir because of his Muslim religion and Iraqi roots. The allegation included trying to ensure he would not be able to head the school.

In order to prevail in a lawsuit alleging nation origin discrimination, one would have to prove that but for the fact of the country of origin, the person would have either gotten a promotion, not been fired, or received a raise. If there are other non-discriminatory reasons why the negative job action or lack of positive job action took place, then the plaintiff will not be able to prove the case and it will most likely be dismissed.

“The board constantly strives to ensure that Rend Lake College is welcome to both employees and students of all backgrounds and cultures,” said the school’s attorney, Julie Bruch.

Continue reading "National Origin Discrimination Lawsuit Against Rend Lake College Dismissed" »

February 28, 2010

EEOC Must Pay $4.5 Million In Sexual Harassment Case Gone Wrong

In Illinois if a person believes they have been subjected to sexual harassment then can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") or the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The following case illustrates one reason why I prefer to file a case with the IDHR as opposed to the EEOC. A federal judge ordered the EEOC to pay $4.56 million in attorneys' fees and expenses to a CRST after dismissing the EEOCs sexual harassment lawsuit. The EEOC filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against CRST on behalf of 270 female drivers. The drivers claim that CRST created a hostile work environment.

The problem for the EEOC was that a Judge ruled against the EEOC and in favor of CRST in a motion for summary judgment thereby dismissing the sexual harassment lawsuit. In federal court, a Judge can award attorney fees to a defendant who wins their motion for summary judgement thereby increasing the risk of litigation for a plaintiff. Another words, if you file a sexual harassment lawsuit in federal court and it is dismissed prior to a jury trial, a Judge could make you pay the attorney fees of the defendant, which in this case were a little more than $4.5 million.

Victims of sexual harassment should consider this ruling before deciding to undertake a lawsuit in federal court because of the potential for paying the attorney fees of the defendant. In Chicago average attorney fees for employment lawyers defending companies can range from $250-$850 per hour.

"The EEOC believes the court's decisions in the case were wrongfully decided and the agency will be appealing," said EEOC Deputy General Counsel James Lee.
February 19, 2010

EEOC Complaints Can Be Faxed

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") can be faxed instead of filed in person or through the mail. If you have a charge of discrimination, whether based on gender, race, religion or sexual harassment you have to file the charge within 180 with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or 300 days with the EEOC. The IDHR has always allowed for complaints to be filed by fax but the EEOC never recognized fax filings. In Laouini v. CLM Freight Lines, Inc. the Seventh Circuit held that a receipt showing a fax was sent to the EEOC is sufficient to prove the date of filing.

It is always very important to remember that there are very strict time limits to filing a charge of discrimination. You must not procrastonate and let too much time slip away. In some instances an employer may drag out the internal investigation so that by the time you receive the internal findings of the company, more than 180 days has passed and you can't file a charge with the IDHR.

Continue reading "EEOC Complaints Can Be Faxed" »

January 5, 2010

Chevrolet Car Dealer Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit With EEOC For $110,000

Bill Heard Chevrolet Corp. will pay $110,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. According to court documents the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleged management and workers made crude remarks about women's bodies, grabbed at one female employees breasts, persistently solicited females for sexual favors and sexually assaulted at least one female employee. When the women cmplained to management in an effort to stop the sexual harassment, the females were either demoted, disciplined or fired--all forms of retaliation.

The lawsuit also alleges that management told some female employees that women should not be in the auto business. This type of behavior is not acceptable and the females stood up for themselves and made management pay. It is very important to document behavior like this and to contact an employment attorney who can file a complaint on your behalf with either the EEOC or in Illinois, the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR will cross-file with the EEOC but by law only one agency will take the lead in investigating the complaint.

“The women in this case sought to earn a living selling cars and rightfully expected to do so while being treated with dignity and respect,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC.”

Continue reading "Chevrolet Car Dealer Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit With EEOC For $110,000" »

January 2, 2010

EEOC Settles Retaliation Lawsuit With Rock Concrete Construction For $31,000

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") settled a retaliation lawsuit with Rock Concrete Construc­tion Corporation for $31,000. In addition Rock Concrete Construction will also provide workers with discrimination training and allow employees access to a company hotline for reporting work place discrimination. The basis of the lawsuit was the company stopped providing work to Eric Bufkin who filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.

Details of the lawsuit include Eric Bufkin’s filing a charge of discrimination against a company that Rock Concrete Construction did a good deal of work with. When Rock Concrete Construction found out, they asked Bufkin to drop his charge and told him that if he did not it would impact him in a negative way. Bufkin refused to drop the charge of discrimination he filed with the EEOC and Rock Concrete stopping providing work for him. What Rock Concrete Construction engage in was retaliation. Retaliation occurs when a company threatens you with a negative job action if you file a charge of discrimination or if you won't submit to their demands and drop a charge of discrimination.

“Employers are simply not entitled to punish employees for complaining about discrim­ination,” said Laurie A. Young, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Indianapolis District Office.

Continue reading "EEOC Settles Retaliation Lawsuit With Rock Concrete Construction For $31,000" »

January 1, 2010

Aaron Rentals Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit With EEOC

Aaron Rental Inc. which operates more than 1500 stores nationwide settled a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").
According to the lawsuit a general manager of Aaron’s Fairview Heights, Illinois store made sexually explicit comments to a female employer. The young female employee was also solicited for sex on a regular basis by the general manager. The EEOC would not disclose the amount of the settlement which also provides what is known as remedial relief. Remedial relief usually includes training for management and the establishment of a hotline for reporting discrimination.

Also alleged by the EEOC is the manager repeatedly attempted to force the female employee to have sex with him and that the sexual harassment culminated when he assaulted her in the store’s warehouse. Many times older members of management prey upon young female workers because they believe the young workers will not know how to respond to the sexual harassment or will be too afraid to report it. Warehouses are usually isolated and there may not be witnesses around so they could become dangerous places. It is very important to let management know as soon as possible that you are being sexually harassed and seek the advice of an experienced sexual harassment attorney.

Continue reading "Aaron Rentals Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit With EEOC" »

December 24, 2009

Allstate Pays $4.5 Million To Settle Age Discrimination Lawsuit

Allstate Insurance company settled an age discrimination lawsuit the the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ('EEOC") for $4,500,000. The lawsuit was filed by the EEOC on behalf of 90 claimants. The EEOC alleged that Allstate violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). Allstate which is based in Illinois is said to have treated a class of older workers negatively during a companywide reorganization. In particular Allstate adopted a plan called Preparing For The Future Reorganization Program. The program was part of Allstate’s reorganization from employee agents to what the company considered independent contractors. That program had a disproportionate impact on employees over the age of 40 because more than 90 percent of the agents subjected to the hiring moratorium were 40 years of age or older.

Of course Allstate denied that its hiring moratorium violated the ADEA, however the $4.5 million dollar settlement says different. Companies cannot institute policies that disproportionately affect older workers. There are many reasons why companies would like to get rid of older workers, namely they can pay younger workers less money, and younger workers are less likely to have large medical bills. Also, younger workers are less likely to challenge the policies of a company.

“We at the EEOC are now bringing more and more lawsuits like this one to challenge company-wide policies or practices which discriminate against a large number of workers,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “Make no mistake: As this settlement shows, we will insist on significant compensation and meaningful injunctive relief to resolve these cases.”

Continue reading "Allstate Pays $4.5 Million To Settle Age Discrimination Lawsuit" »

December 17, 2009

Lafayette College Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit for $1.2 Million

Six women who claim they were sexually harassed by Barry Stauffer, a former security guard for Lafayette College settled their sexual harassment lawsuit for $1.2 million. According to the terms of the settlement each women will receive $200,000. All of the women allege they Stauffer grabbed the women's breasts and buttocks, looked inside their shirts, rubbed their shoulders and tried to kiss them. The women also allege Stauffer made sexually lewd comments and sent his co-workers sexually explicit material and pornography by e-mail.

This type of behavior is not acceptable in the work place and more and more of this seems to be taking place in colleges. This case was brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of the six women. The EEOC investigates claims of sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination. In Illinois a person who believes they are the victim of sexual harassment can file with the EEOC or the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). Both agencies have the same role, with the EEOC being on the federal level and the IDHR the state level. I prefer to file with the IDHR and have them cross-file with the EEOC.

“In this case, we took immediate action, in accordance with our published procedures, in response to any complaint of sexual harassment that was received. The College has a zero-tolerance policy with respect to sexual harassment" said Roger Clow Lafayette College Spokesman.

Continue reading "Lafayette College Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit for $1.2 Million" »

December 2, 2009

22 Female Teachers Get $1 Million For Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

22 female teachers who claimed in a federal lawsuit that they were the victims of gender discrimination settled their lawsuit for a total of about $1 million. $460,000 will go to the teacher and the remainded will cover attorney fees and costs. According to the lawsuit, the female teachers claimed that they were not treated the same as their male counterparts for things like prior teaching experience outside the district which resulted in lower wages.

The teachers are located in the Richland school district in Pennsylvania. This type of behavior is a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and in Illinois a charge could be brought before the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR.")These types of cases are expensive because discovery is usually need to determine things like the difference in pay between females and males. The good thing about a case like this however is that it is hard to destroy evidence of discrimination because the pay records are things which can't be destroyed and covered up.


November 20, 2009

University of Nebraska Woman Fired For Being A Witch Turns Broom on School and Receives $40,000

A woman, named Jane Doe to protect her identity, sued the University of Nebraska alleging she was fired because she is a witch. In her religious discrimination lawsuit she alleges she was hired directing the youth program and did her job satisfactory but an associate dean terminated her after learning she was a witch. The University agreed to settle the lawsuit for $40,000 without admitting liability. This type of discrimination violates an employees constitutional rights.

The case was fired filed with the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission ("NEOC") which is similar in Illinois to the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). Jane Doe alleged the University of Nebraska violated her free speech and freedom of expression rights as well as her freedom to practice the religion of her choice. The NEOC found reasonable cause to believe religious discrimination had taken place in this case.


Continue reading "University of Nebraska Woman Fired For Being A Witch Turns Broom on School and Receives $40,000" »

November 14, 2009

Massey Energy Pays $8.75 Million To Settle Age Discrimination Lawsuit

Massey Energy and its subsidiary Spartan Mining Company settled a lawsuit alleging age discrimination for $8.75 million. The lawsuit was a class action led by five minors who alleged that Massey failed to hire workers over 40 years old in violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act. In all the lawsuit involved more than 200 job applicants. Under the terms of the settlement, 82 miners will each receive $38,000 in back pay and general compensatory damages with 141 job applicants each receiving $19,000.

In Illinois charges of age discrimination can be filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). I file charges with both agencies but prefer to file with the IDHR because I believe the state investigates better and in a more timely fashion. Many times a company that engages in this type of behavior does it on a large scale.

Continue reading "Massey Energy Pays $8.75 Million To Settle Age Discrimination Lawsuit" »

November 4, 2009

Firefighters File Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Kathy Rogers and Lisa Theberge who are two female firefighters filed a lawsuit against Westbrook's fire department, mayor and city administrator, claiming they failed to address sexual harassment that was documented in complaints to the Maine Human Rights Commission ("MHRC"). The MHRC is similar to the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and is where I file most of my sexual harassment complaints. Both women are on paid administrative leave and are alleging obscene sexual harassment and discriminatory behavior in their lawsuit.

According to the allegations in the lawsuit several male firefighters, including the deputy chief, lieutenants and captains, engaged in incidents ranging from masturbation and pornography at the station to a sexual affair and sex at a fire department gathering. In one particular instance it is alleged that the deputy chief once approached Theberge and began stroking her hair. He was put on unpaid administrative leave for two weeks and, the lawsuit says, ''allowed to take it a day each week for his convenience.'' Some male firefighters groped female victims in the rescue vehicle and bragged about it afterwards. They were put on unpaid administrative leave for two weeks, discipline that Webber, one of the attorney's for the two firefighters called ''disproportionate to their conduct.''

''Sexual harassment is alive and well in the city of Westbrook at a level that's shocking to imagine,'' Webber said.

Continue reading "Firefighters File Sexual Harassment Lawsuit" »

October 14, 2009

House Of Gyros Ordered to Pay $17,400 In Sexual Harassment Case

Melvine Davis filed a charge of sexual harassment against her former employer, the House of Gyros, Inc., with the Decatur Human Relations Commission in 2007. In many towns you can file a complaint with the local commission as opposed to the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("

The House of Gyros appealed the decision to the Macon County Circuit Court seeking a reversal of the Commission’s decision which the Judge did. That decision was appealed and the Illinois Appellate Court reversed the Circuit Court and reinstated the $17,400 award by the City’s Human Relations Commission.

“Our only goal with this case was to see that justice was served and we believe that it was,” said Barthelemy.


Continue reading "House Of Gyros Ordered to Pay $17,400 In Sexual Harassment Case" »

October 5, 2009

Chicago's Tomayo Financial Services Sued For Sexual Harassment

Tomayo Financial Services, based in Chicago Illinois was sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") for sexual harassment and retaliation. Tomayo has four offices in Chicago and is a mortgage lending organization. According to the lawsuit female employees were sexually harassed and subjected to retaliation when they complained about the sexual harassment.

The EEOC claims numerous men employed at Tomayo, including executives, were part of continuous and widespread sexual harassment of women. The men referred to women with sexual epithets, engaged in threatening physical and verbal sexual conduct. The women reported the sexual harassment but nothing was done by Tomayo to stop the conduct and it only increased.

John Hendrickson, EEOC regional attorney for the Chicago District, said, “It does not matter what industry is involved—whether it’s automobiles, household products, mortgages—sexual harassment and retaliation are non-starters from both a business and a legal perspective.

Continue reading "Chicago's Tomayo Financial Services Sued For Sexual Harassment" »

September 18, 2009

New Illinois Law Takes Affect January 1, 2010 Adding Additional Discrimination Protections

The Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA") also known as, 775 ILCS 5/1-101 will now offer protection to individuals who have an order of protection. Starting at the first of the year it will be considered unlawful discrimination, based on order of protection status, to take any negative job action on an individual if they have an order of protection and there is no legitimate business reason for the negative job action.

This new law adds order of protection status to the current protected classifications of religion, age, race, national origin, gender, marital status, disability, sexual orientation, military status, and unfavorable discharge from military service. The initial charge would be filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights in either Chicago or Springfield.

Continue reading "New Illinois Law Takes Affect January 1, 2010 Adding Additional Discrimination Protections" »

September 9, 2009

Four Female Doctors Sue Hospital For Sexual Harassment

Four female doctors alleged sexual harassment by Medical Superintendent Dr. Vinod Kumar of Gandhi Nagar Hospital. Some inside the hospital believe the sexual harassment complaint was filed because the hospital and in particular Dr. Kumar have been very strict with the doctors regarding employment issues. To date not many facts have been alleged and both sides seem to be keeping tight lipped.

In Illinois allegations of sexual harassment must be filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The complaint must be filed within 180 days and 300 days respectively. It is very important to speak with an attorney early to make sure you don't miss those important periods.

“We don’t believe that Dr Vinod can do such an act” an old female employee of the Hospital on the condition of anonymity.

Continue reading "Four Female Doctors Sue Hospital For Sexual Harassment" »

August 12, 2009

What Is Sexual Harassment in Illinois?

Under the Illinois Human Rights Act 775 ILCS 5/2-102(D)), sexual harassment in Illinois is any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other conduct of a sexual nature is sexual harassment when:
1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment;
2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for an employment decision affecting such individual; or
3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with the employee’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

There are two basic types of sexual harassment: Hostile Work Environment and Quid Pro Quo.

A hostile work environment is created when unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other type of conduct of a sexual nature that is intimidating, offensive or hostile substantially interferes with a person’s work performance. Examples of hostile environment sexual harassment, include, but are not limited to: unwanted deliberate or repeated sexual behavior; sexually suggestive objects, signs, or pictures; unwelcome sexual gestures, touching, or pinching; sexual innuendos or stories; unwelcome hugging, kissing, patting, or stroking; unwelcome sexual teasing, telephone calls, or materials of a sexual nature.

Quid pro quo means “something for something”. Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when submission to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or any conduct of a sexual nature is made, explicitly or implicitly, a condition of employment or promotion. Examples of quid pro quo sexual harassment include, but are not limited to: suggesting to an individual that it is possible to be hired, promoted, or be advanced in the job if that person allows sexual favors; asking a person to submit to unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors as a condition of hiring, promotion, or advancement in the job; denying hire, promotion, or advancement in the job because the person has refused dates, sexual advances, or requests for sexual favors.

July 31, 2009

Florida Settles Three Sexual Harassment Lawsuits For $225,000

The Flordia State Attorney’s Office settled three sexual harassment lawsuits for $75,000 each for a total of $225,000. The three women, Brenda Keys, Gena Duncan and Barbara Chase alleged that former State Attorney Steve Meadows sexually harassed and retaliated against them because of their complaints. Meadows is no longer the State's attorney as he was defeated in last Novembers election.

Keys’ and Duncan’s claims were investigated by the Florda State Human Relations Commission ("FSHRC") last year, which found evidence to support their allegations and cleared the way for the lawsuits to be filed. The commission’s investigative report mentioned Chase, which allowed her to also file her own lawsuit. The FSHRC is analagous to the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") in that it investigates claims of employment discrimination and determines if there is substantial evidence to allow the employee to file with either the state court or Illinois Human Rights Commission for trial.

“We looked at the individual claims, the HRC report and things we learned as we were investigating these claims,” Hess said. “We felt that the claim of a sexually oppressive workplace was going to be difficult to defend. We reached a settlement that we felt was fair to those women in the harassment claims and which we could live with.”

Continue reading "Florida Settles Three Sexual Harassment Lawsuits For $225,000" »

July 20, 2009

United Healthcare Sued For Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Laura Valenziano an 18 year employee of United Healtcare filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") against United Healtcare alleging they discriminated against her based on her sexual orientation and also that they retaliated against her for reporting the discriminatory conduct of her manager. It all started when Valenziano received a new manager and met the manager in person. The new manager began to make inquiries into Valenziano's personal life and ask about her female partner. After these non-job related inquires, Valenziano began to be treated different.

As reported in the Windy City Times, "within two weeks of the performance review, Valenziano was put on corrective action, which meant that she had 30 days to improve whatever had been listed on her evaluation as poor or she faced termination. The mention of a demotion was removed from the copy of the evaluation she received after protesting the corrective action." This is usually how discrimination in the workplace happens. The manager will start to put the employee on some sort of "corrective action" or "improvement plan", shortly after the employee complains about discriminatory conduct.

“It was one of the worst performance evaluations I've ever had. Along with that I received the largest bonus I've ever received,” said Valenziano. “The evaluation mentioned my devotion to the job.”

Continue reading "United Healthcare Sued For Sexual Orientation Discrimination" »

May 26, 2009

Damages In A Sexual Harassment Case

Although the title suggests damages in a sexual harassment case, these damages are also available in most discrimination cases.
1. Economic Damages--consist of back and front pay plus incidentals. Included in this calculation are benefits. Back pay is the amount of money equal to wages an employee would have earned, including all benefits from the date of discharge through the date of final judgment. Front pay is an amount of money equal to wages and benefits the employee will lose in the future because of a lower paying job or no job at all. Incidentals may be relocation costs, education costs for retraining and costs for tools if required at a new position.

2. Emotional Distress Damages--There is new specific formula for this calculation and there are many factors to consider including, the credibility of the employee, length of employment, believeability of witnesses, prior or pre-existing similar injuries, nature and extent of counseling or other medical treatment, and strength of the underlying case.

3. Punitive Damages--Under Title VII and ADA violations punitive damages may be awarded. In order to recover the employee must prove the employer engaged in a discriminatory practice or discriminatory practices with malice or with reckless indifference to the federally protected rights of the employee, but also that liability for the punitive damages should be imputed to the employer.

4. Attorneys' Fees--All federal anti discrimination statutes and those in Illinois provide for the recovery of attorney fees by the prevailing party. Discretion as to the amount is up to the Judge.

Continue reading "Damages In A Sexual Harassment Case" »

May 21, 2009

Employer Mediation Agreements May Be Grounds For Additional Relief

I recently came across a sexual harassment case involving a multi-international company who does business in Illinois. The Illinois employee was required to sign various documents as part of the employment process, including a document whereby the employee was giving up her rights to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and instead agreeing to go through mediation with some third party. Of course the employee did not have an opportunity to negotiate this issue and in fact it was a "take it" or "leave it" approach by the company. Either sign all the documents in front of you or work somewhere else.

I believe this policy is unconstitutional, in clear violation of both state and federal law and may afford employees of this company additional causes of action against the corporation including fraud, violation of 740 ILCS 23 the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003, and violation of the Human Rights Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 among others.

For example in Illinois the five elements of fraud are:

1. A material misrepresentation of a presently exisiting or past fact;
2. Knowledge by the defendant of its falsity or a reckless disregard as to whether it is true or false;
3. Intention that the other person rely on the statement;
4. Justifiable or reasonable reliance thereon by the other person; and
5. Resulting damage.

Clearly, subjecting an employee to sign away his/her rights is a misrepresentation and against the public policy of Illinois. If you have been forced to sign such an agreement you may have a remedy against your employer.

May 20, 2009

Illinois Supreme Court Reverses On Human Rights Act Case

The Illinois Supreme Court in Blount v. Stroud, 2009 WL 153862 ( Ill Sup Ct. 2009), rules the Illinois Human Rights Act does not stop a party from filing an employment or civil rights action in state court. The Court held that the Department of Human Rights and the Illinois Human Rights Commission only administer the Illinois Human Rights Act not federal law. The case involved Jerri Blout who filed a multi-count complaint in Cook County alleging retaliation under 42 USC Section 1981 and a common law claim of retaliation. The gist of her claim was that her employer wanted her to perjure herself in a discrimination case they were involved in and when she would not, she was fired. A jury awarded her $3 million plu $1 million in attorney fees and costs.

This case is good for plaintiffs as it gives one more arrow in their quiver against employers who discriminate against them and subject them to retaliation and other forms of discrimination.

Blount's lead attorney Robin Potter said " this case is monumental, particularly given the 2007 amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act that now permits those claims to be adjudicated in state court."
April 10, 2009

Illinois Supreme Court Update--Illinois Human Rights Act Doesn't Bar Federal and State Claims

The Illinois Supreme Court held in Blount v. Stroud, 2009 WL 153862 (Ill Sup Ct. 2009) that the Illinois Human Rights Act ("Act") doesn't preclude employees who file a claim under the Human Rights Act from bringing other claims based on common law, or federal statutes in state court.

Background

Jerri Blount filed a multicount complaint in Cook County Circuit Court against her former employer Jovon Broadcasting Corporation and the owner and general manager. The two counts of interest to his analysis were her common law retaliatory discharge and retaliation under 42 USC Section 1981. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss claiming the Act precluded her from filing in the circuit court. The court rejected the motion to dismiss and she was ultimately awarded over $3 million dollars by a jury. The appellate court reversed holding the Act deprives Illinois Courts of subject matter jurisdiction. The Illinois Supreme Court heard the case and ruled that whether facts giving rise to a civil rights violation as defined under state law might also give rise to a civil rights violation under definitions found in federal statutes was not relevant and Blount had a right to pursue her claim under federal law in state circuit court.

March 7, 2009

Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Filed Against Restaurant Depot

Stephanie Chiafos, a former employee of St. Paul restaurant supplier Restaurant Depot has accused two of her former supervisors of sexual harassment in an eleven page lawsuit filed in federal court. The lawsuit alleges that when one supervisor, John Ruhulessin was fired after having a number of complaints made against him by female employees, the man who temporarily replaced him , Tommie Brown continued the sexual harassment. Chiafos alleges the replacement supervisor even sexually assaulted her while on the job.

According to the lawsuit, the company did not take the accusations being made against the first supervisor serious until Chiafos hired an attorney. The lawsuit was filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Minnesota Human Rights Act and based on negligent supervision and retention. The Minnesota Human Rights Act is analogous to the Illinois Human Rights Act.

The lawsuit alleges that Brown put his hand down the front of Chiafos's shirt, touched her breasts, and made propositions for oral sex. In fact, according to the lawsuit, on the day Brown fired Ruhulessin for his inappropriate sexual comments, Brown told Chiafos

"blow him for lunch" because he had a bad headache from having to fire Ruhulessin.

A complete copy of the lawsuit is available by clicking on 09-cv-00499

Continue reading "Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Filed Against Restaurant Depot" »

February 20, 2009

Flight Attendant Loses Sexual Harassment Case

According to the lawsuit Captain Ed Murray, 63, sent an explicit text to 29-year-old Rachel Quinn after they travelled together on a business trip. Quinn said she was reading a book in her hotel when she received the message in which Murray said:

"I cannot wait for you to go down on me."
Murray denied making the comment, insisting he never spent time with Quinn while they were working together.

Quinn said she was unfairly fired from her job with the private charter jet company Gama and that she had been a victim of sexual harassment and retaliation. Tribunal chairman Keith Bryant rejected both of Quinn's claims saying the court could not consider the sexual harassment claim because it had been made more than three months after the alleged incidents.

This was a United Kingdom case, in Illinois an employee has 180 days to file a sexual harassment complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights or 300 days to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. As you can see from the case above, waiting too long can be fatal to a good case.

January 19, 2009

Illinois Human Rights Act Amendment That Bans Sexual-Orientation and Gender-Identity Discrimination: Three Years Later

The Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") act that bans sexual-orientation and gender-identity discrimination went into effect three years ago and here is an update on the act. According to the Director of IDHR Rocco Claps, a snapshot of fiscal year ‘09 ( from July ‘08 to today ) , shows there have been 89 sexual-orientation charges and, of those, 11 are related to gender identity, 2 based on bisexual, 67 on homosexualality, 2 on heterosexuality and 3 based on perceived orientation.

In Illinois, the IDHR investigates charges of sexual harassment, as well as sexual-orientation. Known as Public Act 093-1078 the new act makes it is unlawful in Illinois to discrimination on the basis of sex, age, race, gender, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, and religion. The other basis of discrimination besides employment include real-estate transactions; public accommodations; sexual harassment in higher education; and financial credit.

Continue reading "Illinois Human Rights Act Amendment That Bans Sexual-Orientation and Gender-Identity Discrimination: Three Years Later" »

December 29, 2008

Illinois Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Filed Against Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago

A former Ambassador East Hotel worker Juana Sallis ("Sallis") filed a complaint against Defendant Portfolio Ambassador East, LLC, ("Portfolio"), owner of the Ambassador Hotel in Chicago, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging that she was subjected to a hostile work environment while employed at the Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago when she was sexually harassed by two supervisors in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1); and that Portfolio discharged her in violation of the anti-retaliation provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3 because she complained about the sexual harassment.

According to her complaint Sallis was employed as a housekeeper at the Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, since May 3, 2000, and had satisfactorily performed the duties of her job. On November 23, 2005, Sallis was notified by a co-worker that another employee, Larry Cason, accused her of engaging in sexual acts with him. Sallis reported the incident to human resources director Elvia Munoz. Munoz and other members of the hotel management staff, including general manager Paul Lauritzen and executive housekeeper Bill Smith, "failed to take any action against Cason to have him cease and desist from engaging in his sexually offensive and derogatory behavior. Sallis alleges that as a result her work environment became hostile, egregious, outrageous, and offensive and severely affected her ability to perform the essential duties of her job.

On December 30, 2005, Sallis was discharged from her job as a housekeeper at the Ambassador East Hotel by Paul Lauritizen, Bill Smith, and Portfolio human resources director Linda Noriega. Sallis was told she was being discharged because she left work early on December 23, 2005. Plaintiff did not receive any documentation validating the reason for her discharge. On April 4, 2006, Sallis filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). On March 1, 2007, the EEOC issued a "right to sue" letter authorizing Sallis to sue under Title VII within ninety days. Sallis filed her lawsuit against Portfolio on May 24, 2007 and it is still pending.


Continue reading "Illinois Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Filed Against Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago" »

September 21, 2008

Illinois Department of Human Rights Client Interview

After a verified answer is received by the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"), the investigator from the IDHR will call and schedule a client interview. The interview will either take place at the Thompson Center in Chicago, the Springfield Office or via telephone. The Complainant is allowed to have her attorney present during the client interview although the attorney is there to advise not to answer questions. Having a skilled sexual harassment lawyer present during the interview can mean the difference between a successful and unsuccessful case.

The purpose of the client interview is for the investigator from the IDHR to learn about the case. The investigator wants a first person account of what happened, who witnessed what happened, who if any you reported the harassment to and the location of documents or other witnesses that may help the investigator obtain a complete picture of what took place.

It is important for the complainant and attorney to work together to make sure any names, location of documents or other relevant information are gathered and given to the investigator during the client interview. As the investigator has the ability to require the employer to produce documents and witnesses at the fact-finding conference, it is extremely important to get all of the information to the investigator at or prior to the client interview.

Continue reading "Illinois Department of Human Rights Client Interview" »

September 19, 2008

IDHR Fact Finding Conference

Once a charge is filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"), and the company is served with the charge and responds a client interview will be conducted. After the interview a fact-finding conference will be conducted by the investigator for the IDHR and will include the

Complainant and her attorney, the Respondent and their attorney and any witnesses that the investigator wishes to invite.

All documents or other non-testimonial evidence submitted by any party in support of their position must be submitted to the investigator prior to the fact finding conference.
At the conference, any party may be accompanied by an attorney, however the attorney is not allowed to ask questions directly as the fact finding conference is not an adversarial proceeding.

The attorney may only advise his client at the proceeding. Investigators however will allow the attorney to write questions and pass them to the investigator. If the investigator deems the question relevant, the investigator may ask it.

September 18, 2008

The Illinois Cooper v. Salazar Injunction: A Relief for Illinois Sexual Harassment Lawyers

As of November 1, 2001, the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") has been under a federal-court injuction that among other things, orders the IDHR to "cease permanently from relying on credibility determinations made without affording the rights of confrontation and cross-examination." Cooper v. Salazar, 98 C 2930 U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois at page 26. This case was followed closely by Illinois Sexual Harassment lawyers.

The purpose of the injuction is to deny the Department the ability to assess the credibility of witnesses where there is conflicting testimony. This applies to all witnesses whether they are for the complainant or respondent. In short, if the determination of substantial evidence turns on issues of credibility, the IDHR must make a finding of substantial evidence so the trier of fact may resolve the issue of credibility.

The Illinois Human Rights Act defines substantial evidence as "evidence which a reasonable mind accepts as sufficient to support a particular conclusion and which consists of more than a mere scintilla but may be somewhat less than a preponderance." 775 ILCS 5/7A-102(D)(2).

Conflicting evidence exists when there are statements of a person with material first hand knowledge contradicted by statements of a different person with marerial first hand knowledge; or business records contradicted or oral statements of a person with material first hand knowledge; or business records of one person contradicted by business records of another person.

Continue reading "The Illinois Cooper v. Salazar Injunction: A Relief for Illinois Sexual Harassment Lawyers" »

August 31, 2008

Federal-Court Injunction Regarding the Illinois Department of Human Rights

Since 2001 the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR")has been under a federal-court injunction that among other things orders the IDHR to "cease permanently from relying on credibility determinations made without affording the rights of confrontation and cross-examination."

Previously, the IDHR would make a finding of lack of substantial evidence based on its' investigation which would include interviewing witnesses during the fact finding conference or interviewing witnesses via telephone. The complainant and their attorney were not allowed to cross examine the witnesses during the fact finding conference and were not even allowed to participate when the investigator interviewed witnesses on the telephone.

In 2001 the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Cooper v. Salazar, addressed the issue of lack of the ability of complainant to cross examine witnesses and ordered the IDHR to not make credibility of witness determinations. In short, if there is conflicting evidence, the investigator for the IDHR must find substaintial evidence and allow the case to move forward to the Human Rights Commission for trial or with the local circuit court for trial.

Continue reading "Federal-Court Injunction Regarding the Illinois Department of Human Rights" »