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Windmill Farms Nurseries, Inc., pays $40,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. The lawsuit was first filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC“). The EEOC charged the company with subjecting a female employee, Sheila Aguilar, to sexual harassment and retaliation by her immediate supervisor Alvaro DeSantiago.

According to published accounts, DeSantiago sexually harassed female employees who worked as planters at the nursery under his direct supervision. The EEOC claims that the harasser sexually propositioned Aguilar and offered favors if she agreed to be his girlfriend. The supervisor allegedly fired Aguilar less than a month after she rejected his sexual advances.

“It is critical for employers to take diligent steps to prevent and adequately address sexual harassment,” said EEOC Tampa Director Georgia Marchbanks.

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So one of the websites that I love to utilize to attract good clients is LegalMatch. It is a website that allows people who have a legal claim to post cases and find lawyers who concentrate on such cases. This saves the client time and allows me to get in contact with clients who are in need of legal advice and representation. For the clients, this allows them to view the lawyers profile and make a determination as to whether it looks like a good initial fit. Because there are so many websites that claim to match clients and attorneys it is important to utilize only the best. In my opinion, LegalMatch is the best at doing this. The client can select the practice area, for example, Sexual Harassment and only those attorneys that practice in that field will get the email from the potential client. This saves both parties time, which is the same as saving money.

Another great advantage that LegalMatch provides is the ability to read articles that attorney have written about legal issues. So you can get a feel for what the attorney has as far as knowledge in the area of the law that relates to your case. If a person does an Internet search for say Sexual Harassment attorney Chicago, so many results will come back that it can be overwhelming. LegalMatch allows the person to eliminate the need to look at every attorneys website and focus on those attorneys who are aligned with LegalMatch and handles those cases. LegalMatch also ranks the attorneys based on client reviews, which gives a person the ability to see how the attorney has performed in the past with the same type of case. All of these are good reasons to check out LegalMatch the next time you have a legal issue. I have been using it for 8 years and concentrate in employment discrimination cases.

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Hot Wheel City pays $20,000 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit. The multi-count lawsuit was first filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC“). Published accounts indicate that Hot Wheel City subjected a female employee to a sexually hostile work environment at the hands of a male co-worker. The female employee reported the sexual harassment and was thereafter fired in retaliation for complaining. If a person reports sexual harassment is then has a negative job action taken against her, it is retaliation under the law.

Many times companies fire the person who complains instead of taking the matter in a serious fashion. In this case the company was very obvious about what it did and that was an illegal move.

“Hot Wheel City has committed to making significant changes that should be beneficial to current and future employees as well as the company.” said EEOC attorney Nedra Campbell

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Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center (“CBHC”), pays $309,000 to a former employee to settle an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC“) lawsuit. According to published accounts the company refused to provide a reasonable accommo­dation to employee Pamela Perry and then retaliated against her by refusing to rehire her after she was laid off. As a result of this, the EEOC filed a lawsuit based on violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA“), which prohibits employers from refusing to provide applicants and employees with reasonable accommodations unless it causes the employer an undue hardship.

Perry requested permission to wear athletic shoes to work in June 2002 after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disability which caused numbness, pain and tingling in her feet. CBHC allowed Perry to wear athletic shoes for a few years, but later disciplined her for wearing the shoes. When Perry’s symptoms worsened, she requested additional reasonable accommodations, which CBHC denied. Two days after Perry wrote a letter to CBHC complaining about its refusal to accommodate her, she was laid off. The EEOC also alleged that CBHC then retaliated against Perry by refusing to hire her when she applied for a vacant position she had performed for a majority of her 23 years of employment. This type of conduct is really troubling and I can’t understand what the company was thinking. You can see how much money a dumb decision like this costs.

“We are pleased that this decree provides full relief to Ms. Perry and will also prevent this type of discrimination in the future against other employees at CBHC.” said EEOC attorney Andrea G. Baran

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Cordia Senior Living pays $40,000 to settle a retaliation lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC“). The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a former employee who had complained about sexual harassment. Under the law, if you complain about sexual harassment, the company can’t take a negative job action against you to try and shut you up. It is unfortunate but many times a company will just fire the employee rather than investigate a discrimination claim.

In this case, the company could have just investigated the sexual harassment complaint and taken the appropriate action. By refusing to take action and firing the employee, the company still has to deal with a potential sexual harasser and had to pay money to settle this case.

“We at the EEOC are encouraged that this decree not only remedies the retaliation that occurred, but will prevent retaliation in the future,” said EEOC attorney Hendrickson.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.