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.

January 2, 2012

Settling A Sexual Harassment Case At the Illinois Human Rights Commission

So your case made it all the way to the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC"). Now what do you do? Are you prepared to take the case to trial and wait a few years for the judges decision? Remember at the IHRC there are no jury trials. The good news for you is that most cases before the IHRC settle, just like most other civil cases. If you have a sexual harassment case chances are the company isn't going to want all the juicy details to emerge. Just think how embarrassing it would be to have the world know how women are really treated at work. If your sexual harassment case makes it to the IHRC you have leverage.

So what do you do next? Well I hope you have an experienced sexual harassment lawyer because that is how you are getting top dollar for your case. Negotiations can be tricky and are all about leverage, pressure and experience. If you are suing a company they have to have a lawyer in order to appear in front of the IHRC so why go it alone. You need a lawyer who is experienced to battle their lawyer. If you hire the right lawyer you basically get him for free because of the increase in the settlement you will receive. If your case has advanced this far, go the extra mile and make sure you receive top dollar.

December 30, 2011

Common Sexual Harassment Defenses

In Illinois there is strict liability on the company if a supervisor or person in authority engages in sexual harassment. However if the sexual harassment if from a non-supervisor then liability doesn't attach unless the company is notified and fails to take corrective action. So what type of defenses will a company engage in once you bring a complaint of sexual harassment? The most common is that the conduct doesn't rise to the level of harassment because both parties were engaged in it. This is also known as consent by the victim. The company will usually show an email or text message that shows some friendly comment in an attempt to prove their theory. Remember if the person is your supervisor of course you may have friendly comments to him, are you suppose to say unfriendly things to him?

The second most common defense is that the conduct really doesn't rise to the level of sexual harassment. So the company will say, yes the conduct was inappropriate but it wasn't harsh enough to warrant a sexual harassment complaint. The third defense is that the employee is not a good worker and is just using the sexual harassment charge as a way of diverting attention away from herself. This is the defense where the victim usually gets terminated based on some trumped up charge. This also allows the employee to file an additional complaint of retaliation. You were late to work three times or you made a mistake on your work. Of course other employees missed the same amount of work and they didn't get fired. If this happens to you, call an employment lawyer and protect your rights.

December 28, 2011

Italian Restaurant Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit For $25,000

Rafael’s Italian Restaurant settles a sexual harassment lawsuit for $25,000. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of a class of female employees. To make matters worse, some of the females that were subjected to sexual harassment were teenagers. According to published accounts a male kitchen worker repeatedly subjected female employees to egregious acts of sexual harassment including crude comments, requests for sex and physical touching.

The details of what the men said to these women is troubling and include using vegetables to simulate sodomy and to hit the victims between their legs. The women complained to management but nothing was done to stop it. It is unbelievable that management would not take immediate action and intervene on behalf of the women. You can imagine the impact this had on the teenagers. I am glad the EEOC stepped in and held the company accountable.

“Allowing serial harassers to victimize female employees without facing consequences is a clear violation of federal law,” said EEOC attorney Faye A. Williams.
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 19, 2011

M. Slavin and Sons Pays $900,000 To Settle Hostile Work Environment Lawsuit

M. Slavin & Sons, Ltd., pays $900,000 to settle an employment discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The lawsuit the was filed on behalf of over 30 black employees. According to published accounts the company created a hostile work environment for the workers based on sexual harassment, national origin, racial discrimination and retaliation.

The company owners and managers harassed the employees making explicit sexual comments and using offensive racial terms such as “n----r” and “African b-----d.” Many of the men endured this treatment because they desperately needed the work.

“Thanks to Kevin Pierson’s EEOC charge and this lawsuit, employees at M. Slavin will now be able to work in an environment free from discrimination,” said EEOC attorney Sunu P. Chandy.