September 11, 2012

Are Sexual Orientation Lawsuits On The Rise In Chicago

There are many different types of discrimination cases in Chicago. My office gets calls from people in the gay and lesbian community asking if there seems to be an increase in the number of sexual orientation cases in Chicago? The answer in my opinion is yes. There are probably many explanations for this including the bad economy and the lack of training that companies are giving their employees. With the bad economic times comes a cut in funding for discrimination training. I believe it is very important that people realize even though they may fear losing their job, they should protect their rights and not let other employees discriminate against them.

So what types of conduct would constitute sexual orientation discrimination in Chicago? For starters comments directed toward ones sex life or as the name implies one's sexual orientation. Many times other employees will make derogatory comments and in general just be ignorant toward the targeted employee. If this happens at work to you report the conduct to human resources or management. They have a legal obligation to stop this type of conduct otherwise liability attaches. If the person doing the harassment is your supervisor, strict liability attaches to the company.

August 5, 2012

EEOC Rules Transgender EMployees Have Protection

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") had a recent policy shift and now recognizes transgender employees as protected employees. In Macy v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ("ATF"), the EEOC found claims of discrimination based on gender identity or transgender status are now actionable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. What employers should take away from this is that the EEOC is going to enforce this new protection. That means they will seek out companies to make examples out of.

This case came about because Mia Macy, who worked for the Phoenix police and who people thought was a man, applied with the ATF. However, during the interview process, she revealed she was in the process of transforming from male to female and the job offer was rescinded. This type of activity is now a violation of federal law. Organizations will now have to add this to the list of categories that are protected under the law. Many people think this would also fall into discrimination based on sexual orientation, which it could. The important fact is this; if you believe you are the victim of employment discrimination, contact a good employment attorney.

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 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.

June 21, 2012

Sizzler Settles Sexual Orientation Lawsuit For $25,000

What a wacky and bizarre case this turned out to be. Liza Friedlander walked into a Sizzler restaurant for breakfast. While there, Friedlander alleges she was shoved by the manager and called names and threatened by patrons, all be cause of her perceived sexual orientation. It is against the law to discriminate against a person because of their sexual orientation or even perceived orientation. Eventually, Friedlander was shoved and kicked by the restaurant manager.

According to published accounts police had to be called and Friedlander was taken to a nearby hospital in an ambulance. Can you imagine going for breakfast and being taken out by ambulance? This is just crazy. The important point here is that you don't have to be gay to be discriminated against because of sexual orientation. So you could be a straight person and if your co-workers make gay remarks to you, they would be in violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act.

"I was attacked and threatened by people yelling terrible anti-LGBT slurs, throwing things at me and threatening to sexually assault me." Friedlander said
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.

April 25, 2012

Police Officer Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit For $150,000

Officer Wendy Schwartzenberger settles her sexual harassment lawsuit with the Concord Police Department for $150,000. Schwartzenberger is the highest-ranking female officer
and allegedly was the victim of sexual harassment. According to documents which have been made available to the public, she will receive $51,352.70, and her attorneys $98,647.30. You can see how expensive these types of lawsuits can be. This is something that employers should keep in mind. The longer lawsuits drag on the higher the legal fees and many times those legal fees are paid by the employer.

Schwartzenberger's alleged that Lt. Robin Heinemann had made a series of sexually charged comments to her, as well as unwanted physical advances, including hugging and kissing her. Schwartzenberger's is gay and Heinemann allegedly made comments about her sexual orientation and her relationship with her partner. Many times there are multiply categories of discrimination and in this case there were two. You can see how much money it cost an employer when another employee makes stupid comments.

"However, we believe the settlement is in the best interests of all concerned, given the contested nature of the claims, the costs of litigation, and the disruption to staff that trying this case would entail," Coon said.
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 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.

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 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.

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.

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.

November 30, 2011

Discovery At The Illinois Human Rights Commission

I get calls from people who have cases at the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") regarding how to proceed with discovery. My first piece of advice is to tell them to hire an experienced employment lawyer. Discovery is where a case can be won or lost. It is also instrumental in getting information that will lead to a good settlement. For example if you have a sexual orientation or sexual harassment case pending before the IHRC, you would want to get evidence the other side has of the discrimination. A good starting point would be text messages and emails that were uncovered by the company investigation.

Usually if you file an internal complaint of discrimination the company will do some sort of internal investigation. Documents uncovered during the investigation may be very relevant to your case. The documents get even more important if the company engages in retaliation against you after you complain about the sexual harassment or sexual orientation discrimination. There are no short cuts when it comes to discovery and how clever and complete your discovery requests are may decide how much money you end up with in your pocket.

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.

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 18, 2011

Chicago Employers Creating Hostile Work Environments

Whow just when things looked like they couldn't get any worse for employees, the big bad companies and corporations are stepping up their discrimination and creating even more hostile work environments. Now in Illinois there is no such thing as general discrimination or bullying. But if the hostile work environment is created because of sexual harassment, sexual orientation discrimination or other forms of discrimination you will have a case. Even though the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") is laying off workers, a case can still be filed with them for discrimination.

It is very important to conduct an employment attorney early in the process to protect your rights. In illinois you only have 180 days from the date of the last harassment to file with the IDHR. The big companies have plenty of people working for them and making sure they don't have to pay money to you if you have been wronged. Make sure you don't let them drag out an internal investigation past the 180 days. The big companies are very sneaky and you must be vigilant in protecting your rights.

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.

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.

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April 18, 2011

Douglas County Settles Religious Discrimination and Sexual Orientation Lawsuit For $145,000

Douglas County pays $145,000 to settle a sexual orientation and religious discrimination lawsuit to Kathy Slater who worked for the county as a records clerk. In her lawsuit Slater alleged she was terminated after she refused to accept domestic partnership declarations and other documents from same-sex couples. Slater asked to be exempted from the duty, based on her religious beliefs saying she was a christian and believed same-sex partners were sinners.

The problem was Douglas County Clerk Barbara Neilson rejected the accommodation, and claimed exempting Slater would impose an undue hardship on clerk’s office staffing and operations. During discovery a memo surfaces that also indicated that Neilson believed the county could be subjected to civil rights lawsuits if she allowed the acoommodation. The Judge did not buy that argument and denied the County's motion for summary judgment and therefore the case was headed for trial. The Judge pointed out that the applications take a very short period of time to process and it was not unrealistic to just call over another clerk to process the applications of same-sex couples.

“So long as the registration is processed in a timely fashion, the registrants have suffered no injury,” Judge Coffin said. “There is no reason to even inform them of Ms. Slater’s religious views or the county’s accommodation of those beliefs.”
March 16, 2011

School District Pays $35,000 To Girl In Sexual Orientation Case

Constance McMillen wanted to attend her high school prom with her girlfriend but the school district did not want her to. In the end McMillen received a $35,000 settlement from her Mississippi school district and more importantly the district added sexual orientation and gender identity to the district's anti-discrimination policy. This is a classic example of basic discrimination.

This is also an example of how a school district does not think about the issues in a logical manner and instead acts hastily. In the end the district ends up ruining the girls prom, paying her money (that could have gone to better educating kids) and they have to revise their own anti-discrimination policy. So what was the point of not letting her go to the prom? I was happy to see McMillen stand up for herself and not let the mindless morons in charge push her around.

''Our senior year is supposed to be the best part of our high school career. I'm never going to get my senior year back." McMillen said
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."

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January 1, 2011

Sexual Orientation and Hostile Work Environments

My Chicago office is getting more and more calls from employees who are being discrminated against based on their sexual orientation. You would not believe the types of comments some employees have to put up with. Many gay employees take a tremendous amount of abuse from some immature and just plain mean people. This type of activity creates a hostile work environment for every employee not just the person being discriminated against.

It the past most of the hostile work environment cases revolved around sexual harassment issues but more and more sexual orientation seems to be taking center stage. It is extremely important for a gay person to realize they don' thave to take this type of treatment. In fact many times the person being called gay and having these types of comments directed at him isn't even gay.

October 23, 2010

Sony Settles Sexual Orientation Discrimination Lawsuit For $20,000

Charles Morgan IV, will receive $20,000 from Sony Music Holdings Inc to settle a sexual harassment and sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit. Morgan worked at the compact disc and digital media manufacturing facility for about 1.5 years and filed his lawsuit alleging he had been the target of comments from co-workers because he is homosexual. This type of discrimination is called discrimination based on sexual orientation.

According to published accounts of the lawsuit Morgan alleged co-workers made offensive comments about his sexual preference on more than one occasion and he was the subject of graffiti written on machinery and a men's room wall. Morgan alleged he was denied a promotion from his part-time status to full-time as a result of retaliation from his employer for making a complaint over discriminatory treatment. Morgan also claims all of these actions resulted in the creation of a hostile work environment.

A short time later Morgan claimed a co-worker told him "you're too gay to sit here."
September 5, 2010

Female State Police Officer Sues For Sexual Harassment

Ann Marie LaFauci a State Police office worker filed a sexual harassment lawsuit, alleging that a female lieutenant continually flirted with her, then bullied and threatened her after she rejected the advances. According to the lawsuit LaFauci claims Detective Lieutenant Barbara J. Bennett repeatedly called her “girlfriend,’’ once joked that she should wear a thong to work, and often insisted the two be alone for lunch or while driving to meetings. Bennett married her longtime female companion in 2004 after Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage. Bennett serves as the State Police liaison to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community.

This is an unusual case as it not only involves sexual harassment but also sexual orientation discrimination and woman on woman sexual harassment. LaFauci alleges that she was upset by the overtures and told Bennett to stop at which point Bennett cut her hours, unfairly disciplined her, and told her, “Who knows, AnnMarie, accidents happen, they could find you in the back parking lot with blood pouring out of your head.’’ All of those would constitute retaliation and should not happen in the workplace.

“The way she was treating me was almost like a jealous ex- boyfriend being overpossessive,’’ said LaFauci, adding that she was once ordered to fetch toiletries from Bennett’s locker. “And when I told her I couldn’t be treated that way, she snapped.’’

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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.

September 21, 2009

EEOC Report Shows Increase in Discrimination Lawsuits

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") released its' report for 2008 and it shwos there were 16,752 complaints alleging employment discrimination– up 2.4 percent from the prior year. These complaints are allegations against government agencies only and do not include complaints against private companies. The complaints were filed against federal agencies on the basis of retaliation, gender, race, national origin, religion and age.

Other interesting statistics in the report include of 7,538 cases closed on the merits, 2.5% resulted in findings of unlawful discrimination. Both parties entered into settlements in 19.5 % or 3,249 complaints. Agencies awarded a total of over $50 million in monetary benefits to complainants for unlawful discrimination.

“Federal agencies must step up their efforts to improve complaint processing time, while also focusing on quality results,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “

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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.

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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.”

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July 7, 2009

Hayward Police Department Settles Gender and Sexual Orientation Lawsuit For $5 Million

Fourteen female Hayward police officers said they had faced systematic harassment based on their gender or sexual orientation announced today the case has been settled for nearly $5 million. The lawsuit stated that women were subjected to sexual harassment and those who accepted such advances were favored for promotions, and that a rumor mill churned out demeaning stories about female officers having sexual relations with multiple men in the department, often men whose advances had been rebuffed.

Lesbian officers were seen as targets for "conversion," the suit stated. Harassment against one officer included making her privy to a videotape that showed her husband, also an officer, having sex with a dispatcher. The women claimed that those who complained about the workplace conditions were retaliated against via demotions or denial of promotion, and in four cases were fired.

Casper said the amount of the settlement indicated the insurance companies "recognized the problems the city has historically had with women being treated fairly at the police department. Close to $5 million is not an amount paid unless someone has recognized years of wrongdoing."

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June 28, 2009

United States Supreme Court Gives Union Workers The Shaft

The United States Supreme Court in 14 Penn Plaza LLC v. Pyett, 129 S. Ct. 1456 (2009) by a 5-4 vote held that a provision in a collective bargaining agreement ("Agreement") which clearly and unmistakeably requires employees to arbitrate their statutory discrimination claims is enforceable and precludes employees from asserting their statutory claims in state or federal courts. In laymans terms what this means is that if you are in a union and through bargaining the union agrees to settle all employment claims through arbitration, your sole remedy as a union employee is to arbitrate the claim. You will be forever barred from filing a claim in any federal or state court.

This decision does not affect employees who are not in a union as they have not bargained through their representatives the terms of their employment. The types of claims involved could include sexual harassment, gender discrimination, age discrimination, racial discrimination. Americans with Disabilities, age discrimination, religious discrimination, retaliation claims and sexual orientations claims.

The Court did hold that the Agreement to arbitrate must be "clear and unmistakable". One issue the Court did not address is what happens if the Union does not take the employees claim to arbitration? There are two ways to interpert the Court's decision in Pyett, one the employee would have no further remedy or in that case the employee court take the case to state or federal court, however the latter seems less likely under Pyett.

May 19, 2009

California School Settles Sexual Orientation Discrimination Claims By Lesbian Student for $25,000

A lesbian student's complaint that teachers harassed her over her sexual orientation has led to a California school agreeing to pay the student $25,000 and revamp the schools anti-discrimination policies. The student, Rochelle Hamilton, now 16, was a sophomore at Jesse Bethel High School in the fall of 2007, when teachers allegedly verbally harassed her and forced her to attend a counseling session for gay students. Gill said the counselor tried to discourage Hamilton and other students in the session from being gay. Hamilton's standard dress was stereotypically male, with baggy jeans. This is a form of school sexual harassment.

The alleged harassment included a staff member telling Hamilton she was "ungodly" and "going to hell" as she embraced her then-girlfriend. The alleged comments transformed the "social butterfly" into a teenager on the verge of suicide, according Hamilton's mother. Hamilton, who came out as a lesbian when she was 13, said Monday she became depressed because of daily negative comments from teachers and staff about her sexual orientation and her appearance. Hamilton complained to school officials but nothing was done to stop the harassment. Hamilton's grades suffered and her social life suffered as a result of the harassment.

According to a letter dated Jan. 17, 2008, from the ACLU to Bull, staff members made comments to the girl such as, "Remember, you're a girl, not a boy," and, "You can get HIV/AIDS from being gay and messing with females."

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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.


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.

April 3, 2009

Gay employee files discrimination lawsuit against Easton Hospital

A Lower Saucon Township woman, Suzanne Cornish, filed a civil lawsuit against Easton Hospital claiming she was targeted by her superiors because of her sexual orientation and subsequently fired, according to her lawsuit. Cornish claims because she is gay she was harassed at work and hospital officials attempted to coerce her resignation through a "campaign of harassment", which constituted a hostile work environment.

Cornish who worked at the hospital in Wilson Borough as the director of the cardiology pulmonary unit, filed the lawsuit in federal court last week seeking lost salary, damages and attorney fees and to have her position reinstated, according to court records. Cornish alleges hospital officials found out about her sexuality at the end of May 2008 and she was fired Oct. 31. Cornish also claims she was given inaccurate performance reviews that led to her firing according to the Lehigh Valley News.