December 17, 2014

Sexual Harassment and Christmas Parties

So there is going to be a Christmas or holiday party at work. You remember what happened last year; too much alcohol and some groping. What rights do you have and what can you do if there is the same type of behavior again this year? In Illinois, sexual harassment is defined as an unwarranted attempt at sexual relations. This could include sexual comments, request for sex or sexual content in the form of Internet websites or pictures. Also, if the person doing the harassment is a manager or supervisor, there is strict liability on the company for sexual harassment. So what does this mean for you?

Don't let the boss hit on your during the Christmas party. You have a right to be free from sexual harassment even at a party. Because the party is a company sanctioned event, it is an extension of work and liability still attaches. If you are the victim of this type of unwanted attention, you should contact an employment lawyer at once. My office files sexual harassment complaints at the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") often. Also, take note of any witnesses and if you receive any text messages, save them. Remember, drinking and a party is not an excuse to engage in sexual harassment.

December 16, 2014

Paloma Blanca Health Care Associates LLC, Settles Discrimination Lawsuit For $145,000

Paloma Blanca Health Care Associates, LLC, pays $145,000 to settle an Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA") discrimination lawsuit. The ADA lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). According to published accounts the company refused to reasonably accommodate Doug Johnson's disabilities. The company then fired him because of his medical conditions and/or because he requested the reasonable accommodations he needed.

This case stemmed from a heart attack suffered by Johnson. After the heart attack, Johnson requested a reasonable accommodation for his disabilities, in the form of a request for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). The company approved 12 weeks of FMLA leave for Johnson and notified him of their decision by letter dated Nov. 28, 2011. However, after only five weeks of FMLA leave, in a letter dated Jan. 5, 2012, the company notified Johnson that it had eliminated his position and were laying him off due to a "reduction in force" effective Dec. 31, 2011. The problem was no other employees were subjected to a reduction in force at that time. So the company was just making this up in order to terminate an employee rather than make a reasonable accommodation for him.

"Employers must address employee requests for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities and must assure that employment decisions are not based on them." said EEOC Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill
December 15, 2014

Maxim Healthcare Services, Inc. Pays $75,000 To Settle Discrimination Lawsuit

Maxim Healthcare Services, Inc., pays $75,000 to settle an Americans With Disabilities ACt ("ADA") discrimination lawsuit. The ADA lawsuit was first filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The first step in filing a federal lawsuit is to file directly with the EEOC. In this case the company is alleged to have refused to hire a candidate for an assignment because that individual was HIV-positive. You may not take a negative job action against a perspective employee just because of his disability.

In this case Maxim Healthcare made a conditional job offer to the candidate that was contingent on completion of a health status certification. Maxim later refused to hire the candidate after receiving his medical evaluation which reflected his HIV-positive status but nonetheless provided that he was medically cleared to work.

"The ADA prohibits employers, including those in the health care field, from refusing to hire qualified individuals based on their disability, including HIV status." Said EEOC attorney Debra M. Lawrence
December 14, 2014

Braun Electric Pays $82,500 To Settle A Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Braun Electric Company pays $82,500 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. The discrimination lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). According to published accounts, a male manager continually subjected female workers to a hostile work environment since 2010. The manager made daily grotesque remarks of a sexual nature to female subordinates and made explicit sexual propositions on a continual basis.

And Braun's management failed to adequately address reports of sexual harassment. Additionally, supervisors failed to report incidents of sexual harassment they witnessed. In Illinois there is strict liability on a company when a member of management engages in sexual harassment. And if the company is told about the harassment and fails to stop it there is liability even if the harasser is not a member of management. In this case one female employee was forced to quit as a result of the ongoing hostile work environment; which is called a constructive discharge.

"The policies, procedures, training, and monitoring that Braun Electric has agreed to put in place will go a long way toward protecting employees from harassment." said EEOC attorney Anna Park
December 13, 2014

Chicago Based Doumak Pays $85,000 To Settle Discrimination Lawsuit

Doumak, Inc., a longtime Chicago-area marshmallow manufacturer, pays $85,000 to resolve an Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA") discrimination lawsuit. The discrimination lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of five individuals. Under the law, an employee may not be treated to different terms and conditions of employment based on their disability.

According to published accounts the company had capped the duration of leaves of absence at its Elk Grove Village and Bensenville, Ill., manufacturing facilities, without making appropriate exceptions for people with disabilities. The law requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities. What is a reasonable accommodation is up to interpretation but there is a pretty good body of case law on the issue.

"Federal law requires employers to be reasonable and flexible in applying their workplace policies to people with disabilities," said John Hendrickson, the EEOC regional attorney in Chicago.
December 12, 2014

Man Wins $138,000 In Age Discrimination Lawsuit

Murphy School District No. 21 used an early retirement incentive plan which granted greater economic benefits to employees based upon their younger age, in violation of the Age Discrimination laws. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") this plan favored younger teachers and was therefore a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, which became effective in 1992, amended ADEA, to outlaw early retirement incentive plans which discriminated on the basis of age. The school district's early retirement incentive plan then became facially discriminatory.


EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill said, "Early retirement incentive plans which are facially discriminatory need to be changed. Discrimination on the basis of age is simply illegal. People in their 60's should not be penalized merely because they want to continue working."

December 7, 2014

Sexual Harassment By The Boss

So my office gets calls all the time from employees who are in sexual relationship with the boss. Is this sexual harassment in Illinois or under federal law? In order to be considered sexual harassment, the sexual contact must be unwanted. So is what seems like a consensual relationship sexual harassment? Well the answer is it could be. Just like any decision to have sex, if the employee says I don't want to have a sexual relationship anymore, the relationship must stop without any negative job action.

Also, an employee may feel pressured to enter into a sexual relationship with the boss for fear of losing her job is she doesn't. This too would be sexual harassment under the law. And if after ending the sexual relationship, the boss fires the employee, this would be retaliation and liability would attach to the company and the boss. In Illinois, an employee could file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and they will cross-file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Protect your employment interests and contact an employment lawyer if this is happening to you.

December 4, 2014

Swissport Fueling, Inc. Settles National Origin Discrimination Lawsuit For $250,00

Swissport Fueling, Inc., pays $250,000 to settle a national origin discrimination lawsuit. The discrimination lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). According to published accounts, workers who were from various African nations, including Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone were subjected to unfair treatment because of their place of origin. The lawsuit alleges that a Swissport manager routinely called the African fuelers "monkeys." Obviously, this would be an offensive comment and show the distain that the company had towards this group of workers.

When companies allow management to operate in this fashion, bad things happen. In this case, the company had to paid a great deal of money and ended up with a good amount of negative publicity. Management should always ensure that everyone has the proper training on how to treat fellow employees.

"It is against federal civil rights laws for an employer to single out any group, including the immigrant community, by subjecting it to a hostile work environment based upon its national origin, race, and color." said EEOC Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill
December 2, 2014

Jury Awards Three Employees $500,000 In Sexual Harassment Case

A federal court jury returned a verdict awarding almost half a million dollars to three former employees in a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit. The case was first filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") against EmCare. According to published accounts, the women had to ensure constant lewd sexual comments and behavior of former AnesthesiaCare CEO Jim McKinney. Additionally, several other management-level employees in that Division also harassed the women.

In this case the jury also found that Human Resources did not respond to the women's complaints about the misconduct. In what is even more shocking McKinney made an inappropriate remark to one of the women's then-15-year-old daughter at a "Bring Your Child to Work Day" event. It is hard to believe the company took this case to trial and didn't try to settle the matter.

"Ms. Stokes, Ms. Shaw, and Mr. Trahan spent their time at EmCare working diligently to do their jobs well despite the pervasive sexual environment that human resources allowed Jim McKinney to create and perpetuate," said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Meaghan Shepard.
December 1, 2014

Vamco Sheet Metals, Inc. Settles Gender Discrimination Lawsuit For $215,000

Construction contractor Vamco Sheet Metals, Inc., pays $215,000 to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit. The discrimination lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"),on behalf of four discrimination victims. According to published accounts, female sheet metal workers were fired for pretextual reasons, some after just a few days of work. A pretexual reason means the company made up a reason to fire the women and they were really fired because the company did not want any female workers.

Additionally, the women were treated unfavorably compared to men, including being assigned menial tasks like fetching coffee and having their breaks monitored. One new mother was denied a clean private place to pump breast milk. This type of activity resulted in this large settlement and should send a message to other employers. You may not treat women differently than men in the workplace.

"These women had decades of experience as skilled sheet metal workers," said EEOC Attorney Robert D. Rose.
October 8, 2014

Merry Maids Pays $40,000 To Settle A Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit

V&B LLC, a Merry Maids home cleaning franchise pays $40,000 to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit. The discrimination lawsuit was first filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Published documents in the case allege that V&B fired Belinda Sternemann because she suffered from pregnancy-related health issues. Sternemann, a military veteran who worked for V&B for over two years, was a Team Captain on one of V&B's crews and had an unblemished work record. Her pregnancy issues were alleged to be minor and did not prevent her from working.

An employer may not take a negative job action on an employee because of her pregnancy. In this case, the pregnancy issue was minor and there was no reason for the act of discrimination.

"Sometimes employers overreact and base employment decisions on an employee's pregnancy." said EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney John C. Hendrickson
October 5, 2014

DSW Inc. Settles Age Discrimination Lawsuit For $900,000

DSW Inc., pays $900,000 to settle an age discrimination and retaliation lawsuit. The discrimination was first filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). According to published accounts DSW, formerly known as Designer Shoe Warehouse, discriminated against seven former management employees. The details of the discrimination include the firing of employees over the age of 40 years old during a "reduction in force." The company terminated older employees because of their age and retaliated against certain employees who opposed orders to discriminate against older workers.

"Age discrimination is a real problem in employment today." said the EEOC district director in Chicago, John Rowe