The Chicago Employment Law Blog

March 2010 Archives

A pair of employees at the Holiday Inn Elmhurst filed sexual harassment complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Illinois Dept. of Human Rights, according to the Elmhurst Press.

Betty Tsamis, the attorney representing the unnamed plaintiffs, told reporters her clients experienced "hostile comments" from their immediate supervisor based on their sexual orientation. The alleged harassment began last August.

She also said that the two had a difficult time reporting their claims due to alleged intimidation by their manager:

"The employer did not provide the proper training for management and there was not a reporting process in place. When it's their immediate supervisor, then what do they do?"

Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regulations require employers with 50 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid sick leave, according to FindLaw. Employees threatened with termination for calling in sick may benefit from contacting a Chicago employment lawyer.

But despite federal protections, missing out on a day's wages is not an option for many struggling workers.  

While the FMLA protects employees from being fired when calling in sick, an article in Food Safety News argues that restaurants and other food-based businesses would be better off providing compensation to sick employees. Since restaurant workers earn an average of only $17,844 per year, according to In These Times, many of them can't afford to take the day off when they are ill.

A recent article by the Chicago Tribune compiles several academic studies that discuss just how far-reaching the affects of a layoff can be for a person's career, long-term economic outlook, relationships and even physical health. The article starts off with a simple and sobering statement:

"Almost no one will be able to recover the financial ground they've lost."

That's hardly uplifting but helps put things into perspective.

Employees told they were laid off for business reasons, but who suspect wrongful termination should call a Chicago employment lawyer, but these studies mostly focus on the sociological and economic consequences of unemployment.

Illinois legislation designed to save billions of dollars with respect to the state's pension obligations to government employees passed the General Assembly by a wide margin, Chicago Tribune's Clout Street blog reported. The bill's (S.B. 1946) proposed amendments to the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act would only affect state employees hired after its enactment if passed, which is highly expected.

Calls for Illinois pension reform are nothing new but the state's pension debt, estimated at $77 billion to $90 billion, is now the worst in the nation.

Provisions of the bill include raising the full-benefit retirement age to 67 and limiting annual pensions. Since the legislation would not be retroactive, it would reduce benefit costs of teachers, lawmakers, state troopers and other government employees hired in the future.

Perhaps we're getting ahead of ourselves, since medical marijuana is not legally recognized in Illinois (although a state bill to legalize medicinal pot is gaining support, according to the Riverfront Times). But even if the bill is passed, employees may not have much recourse if they lose their jobs for following doctor's orders.

And any Illinois employment lawyer following the issue will tell you the same thing.

A CNN article discusses how a patient's right to use medical marijuana in states where it is legal runs up against an employer's right to terminate an employee (or refuse to hire a prospective employee) who tests positive for the herb.  

Unemployment throughout the greater metropolitan Chicago area spiked to 11.6 percent in January which is up from 10.6 percent in December 2009, according to an Illinois Dept. of Employment Security (IDES) report cited by the Chicago Sun-Times. The metro area lost roughly 149,900 jobs over the past year.

Chicago's unemployment rate was 8.6 percent in January 2009. This illustrates how far it has slid in just one year. Illinois' unemployment rate was 12.2 percent in January; the highest level for the state in 27 years and 1.6 percent higher than the national average.

A separate report by the Brookings Institution painted an even darker picture. According to that report, the Chicago area lost 6 percent of the jobs it had at the start of the recession, "placing it among the weakest areas."

Adding insult to injury, the Brookings report indicates that employment in the area is recovering much slower than in past recessions.

Muffled by the attention heaped upon the recently passed health care reform bill was last week, the signing of the HIRE Act, a jobs bill with the stated purpose of creating incentives for employers to hire unemployed Americans was sort of overlooked, as described by MSNBC.

The $15 billion piece of legislation includes a $1.5 billion summer jobs program to help fund organizations across the country that hire youth during the summer. But the main thrust of the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act (H.R. 2847) is to put unemployed adults back to work.

The highlight of the Act is a Social Security tax exemption for employees hired between Feb. 3, 2010 and Jan. 1, 2011. To qualify for the exemption, those employees must not have worked more than 40 hours in the last 60 days before hiring.

Larger retail chains such as Wal-Mart usually are the ones singled out for allegations of employment discrimination, anti-union intimidation or other labor law abuses. But current and former employees of family-owned Chicago grocer Pete's Fresh Market allege a wide range of labor violations at the South Side stores, according to local news blog Gapers Block.

At least one Pete's employee has filed a discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming she was fired for becoming pregnant; but widespread allegations have been piling up.

If firings for union activity, threats based on immigration status, gender and pregnancy discrimination are in fact taking place at the grocery stores, then Chicago employment lawyers may be getting some more work soon.  

It doesn't exactly bode well for the public image of labor unions when one of its own is charged with violating labor laws. But the Chicago Tribune reported that former Chicago-area union leader William Dugan pleaded guilty to accepting gifts from a company that employed members of his union.

Mr. Dugan retired from his position as president of of the Operating Engineers Union Local 150 in 2008 and is now 76 years old. He owns a buffalo farm in Maryland.

The misdemeanor federal charge was for improperly accepting livestock feeders; for which he could be sentenced to as much as a year in federal prison. Mr. Dugan also admitted to accepting concrete buffalo feeders from another company in 2005.

The multicultural melting pot that is the United States consists of countless cultural influences as well as a rich tapestry of accents from the tongues its foreign-born workers. While most Americans see this as a positive sign of diversity, a Global Post columnist discusses the growing problem of discrimination against "accented workers." 

Columnist Susan E. Reed talks about a French management consultant based in Chicago, a senior partner with 15 years experience and great credentials. While she has lived and worked in Chicago coaching business executives for a decade, she says she still loses business to her French accent:

"They come right out and say, it is my accent. My [French] accent has never been an asset here."  

The French consultant (who asked that her name not be used) also told Ms. Reed that colleagues have barred her from working on certain accounts that they said required "American accents." She said she hasn't complained because the policy is an "unquestioned way of operating" at the firm.

But she might have a valid case.

A lawsuit covered by the Chicago Bar-Tender blog is rich with irony, but hardly amusing. A former teaching assistant at Malcolm X College (yes, named after the anti-discrimination activist himself) claims he was discriminated against on the basis of disability, religion, national origin and age.

As was the late civil rights leader Malcolm X, plaintiff Mohammad Shaikh also is a devout follower of Islam. His lawsuit claims he was not allowed to take time for prayer and instead his break time was limited to a lunch period from 11:00 to 11:45 a.m.

Mr. Shaikh was wrongfully terminated in August 2007, but he won his grievance proceeding less than one year later and returned to the college, according to his complaint.

Nothing's official yet, but Progress Illinois wrote on its web site that Chicago Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th Ward) is planning to introduce a living wage law that would affect workers at stores with 50 or more employees.

Finance Committee Chairman Ed Burke (9th Ward) suggested a law which would require expanding companies that accept public subsidies and have more than 50 employees to pay their workers at least $11.03 per hour. Ald. Lyle's proposal would expand on that by also including those who provide contracted services, such as cleaning or landscaping.

Rev. Booker Vance of the Good Jobs Chicago Coalition voiced his support for a living wage law at a City Hall press conference:

The Huffington Post wrote about Arizona Senator Jon Kyl's argument a few weeks ago that unemployment benefits dissuade people from looking for work because, as he said, "people are being paid even though they're not working." While it's true that many jobless people are in fact getting checks without clocking in, are they in fact choosing not to work?

He made the same argument about the extension of COBRA health care benefits, which actually are quite expensive. While Sen. Kyl probably didn't score political points with struggling families, is there any truth to his assertions? 

University of Chicago economics professor Casey B. Mulligan addressed this question in a New York Times column.

Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer Wal-Mart has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of female applicants who claimed they were denied jobs, Reuters reports. The gender-bias suit was settled for $11.7 million after nearly nine years of litigation.

Wal-Mart was accused of hiring exclusively 18- to 25-year-old males for warehouse jobs at its London, Kentucky facility between 1998 and 2005, to the detriment of equally qualified female applicants. Back pay constitutes $8.41 million of the settlement and $3.29 million is for compensatory damages and other fees.

The settlement also includes a so-called consent decree calling for Wal-Mart to hire women for the next 50 job openings at the facility and to offer half of the following 50 jobs to women. At least one-third of all positions thereafter are to be offered to women.

Is Workplace Bullying Legal?

The phenomenon known as workplace bullying is not easy to define. Everyone knows what a school yard bully is: That mean kid who teases or threatens other kids, often those who are smaller or lower on the social hierarchy. But within the context of employee rights, when does "mean" behavior cross the line? 

Washington State's Dept. of Labor and Industries defines it as follows (PDF):

Workplace bullying refers to repeated, unreasonable actions of individuals (or a group) directed towards an employee (or a group of employees), which is intended to intimidate and creates a risk to the health and safety of the employee(s).

Illinois does not yet offer legal relief if that bully isn't the jerk who steals your lunch money, but rather your boss. 

Losing one's job is bad enough; dealing with the day-to-day struggle to make ends meet on a meager unemployment insurance benefit check only adds insult to injury. But the income tax filing deadline, just around the corner, could add even more stress for jobless Chicagoans.

Tax season is welcomed by filers expecting a refund. But unemployed taxpayers often take desperate measures with negative tax consequences, such as dipping into a retirement account, as discussed in an Internal Revenue Service memo republished by the Chicago Tribune.  

If you can't pay your taxes by the April 15 deadline, the IRS urges taxpayers to still file their return on time. A payment program can be worked out but the IRS needs to know in advance; otherwise, the agency may impose penalties.

A Frankfort man died earlier this month as the result of a gas pipe accident in an underground vault in Chicago's Loop, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Fire dept. spokesman Quention Curtis told reporters Mike Gryga, 39-years-old, was in the process of conducting an air pressure test when a pipe shifted, blew apart and hit him:

"They were pumping air through the system when something went wrong."

He was pronounced dead in the afternoon of March 3 at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County.

It wasn't mentioned whether or not his surviving wife plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the company or the city, since the incident remains under investigation. But speaking to an Illinois workers compensation attorney might be able to help her in this difficult time with regards to the loss of her husband.

The Chicago Tribune reported on the story of Officer David Graham, at the time the only white member of the Dolton Police Department's tactical squad, who filed a lawsuit claiming reverse employment discrimination. He claims he was regularly humiliated because he was not African-American.

He alleges in his complaint cited by reporters that his predominantly black coworkers called him a "white speckle" and even banned him from wearing black tactical gloves because he was white. He claims Dolton Police Chief Robert Fox forced him to wear "fluorescent-yellow" gloves instead.

Illinois employment lawyer Patrick Walsh, Mr. Graham's attorney, told reporters his client's case is not an isolated incident:

"I'm seeing reverse discrimination cases on a large scale in the south suburbs. It starts from the top down."

Pregnancy Discrimination 101

Carrying a baby to term is one of the most important tasks a woman might undergo and has its own set of challenges and potential difficulties. The last thing an expectant mother needs is the stress and adverse consequences resulting from employment discrimination.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978, as explained by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The federal protection applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. 

Most Illinois employment lawyers provide a free initial consultation, so any expectant mother who believes she has been discriminated against solely on the basis of her pregnancy should pick up the phone and explore her options.  

But first, a little more information on what actually constitutes pregnancy discrimination:

A chiropractor, a physician, and a billing employee at a Maywood clinic were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges they engaged in a workers' compensation fraud scheme, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois published in the Insurance Journal.

Each of the 18 counts listed in the indictment carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Federal attorneys claim the defendants submitted false claims to workers' compensation insurers for services not rendered, totaling more than $1 million. Defendants include West Chicago chiropractor Darwin Minnis, physician Dr. Jacob Salomon and billing administrator Gary Strauss. 

Local online news journal Chicagoist is publishing a multi-part series about retailer Wal-Mart's effort to break into the Chicago market; it currently operates stores in the surrounding suburban communities but wants to open locations within the city limits. The first part of the series focuses on the company's employment practices in its suburban Chicago stores.

Bringing more job opportunities to underserved, predominantly African-American neighborhoods has been Wal-Mart's centrally stated reason for wanting to expand into the city.

But while few would argue that more jobs in Chicago's less-advantaged neighborhoods would be a good thing, the author interviewed a few Wal-Mart employees to gain some perspective on what it's like to work there.

Often among the packet of documents new employees skim and sign before starting a new job is a so-called "non-compete agreement." The purpose of such an agreement is to protect trade secrets or other information that ostensibly gives a company an advantage; but courts generally frown upon such agreements as being too restrictive, according to FindLaw.  

Courts consider such agreements valid only if they're narrowly defined and aren't unreasonable, which an Illinois employment lawyer could better explain.

But a state bill (Illinois House Bill 4923) that would create the Illinois Covenants Not to Compete Act would restrict the enforceability of such agreements even further, while providing more leverage for employees who claim they signed a non-compete under duress or that it goes too far.

The worker advocacy group Progress Illinois reports on a state bill that would help step up the enforcement of laws meant to protect employees from wage theft. About 10,000 wage theft incidents were reported with the Illinois Dept. of Labor (IDOL) in 2009, according to the organization.

Wage theft occurs when employers fail to pay their workers, which would include things such as unpaid overtime or work performed off the clock at the employer's behest.

Workers rights groups say wage theft has become more prevalent during the recession, especially for immigrant employees, the Chicago Daily Herald reports.

Disgraced former congressman Eric Massa admitted to Fox News commentator Glenn Beck that he did indeed grope male staffers, insisting it was a harmless "tickle fight," as discussed in a New York Daily News article. Mr. Massa simply chalked it up to a bunch of guys clowning around, not unlike the "guy-on-guy tickle tussles" from his stint in the Navy.

Okay, we'll leave that one alone. 

But the scandal also highlights the growing use of text messaging in sexual harassment cases. Mr. Massa declined to give details but mentioned that several "inappropriate" text messages with staffers may eventually surface:

"I'm sure there's text messages. We bantered back and forth all the time."

So-called "salty talk" may have been the norm in the Navy a few decades ago, but Chicago employees (for that matter, any U.S. employees) who receive such messages from their boss will likely text an Illinois employment lawyer for help. 

AT&T unsuccessfully tried to force a property owner to pay for medical costs related to an injury sustained by a technician on the premises instead of the standard workers' compensation route, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The technician arrived at one of the Palos Heights properties owned by Steve Czerwien on Jan. 11 when he slipped and broke his leg. It hadn't snowed in several days and Mr. Czerwien insisted that the walkway was shoveled and salted two days before his arrival.

An elderly couple rents the property, but Mr. Czerwien pays someone else to shovel the driveway and walkway in the winter.

Normally, such accidents sustained in the course of doing one's job are handled through a workers' compensation insurance claim, which covers employers and employees in the event of work-related injuries.

The legal battle of former Kane County corrections officer Erma Rodriguez is finally over nearly nine years after filing a sexual harassment claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Chicago Daily Herald reported.  

Ms. Rodriguez said she was verbally reprimanded after filing her EEOC complaint in 2001 and contacted an Illinois employment lawyer to help her file suit against the county in June 2003.

Her complaint claims that a male officer "periodically sexually harassed" her for more than two years:

"[He] made suggestive remarks and gestures, touched and rubbed himself against (Rodriguez), and refused to stop despite plaintiff's demands that he do so."

Alcohol dependence is in fact considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. The mere use of alcohol is not protected by the ADA if that use hinders job performance, but abuse and dependence are treated differently.

Recognized as a treatable illness by the medical establishment, alcoholic employees may not be discriminated against so long as they can perform the essential functions of the job.

But alcoholism has a special place in ADA law, according to FindLaw. Employers are permitted to fire an alcoholic employee if he or she "fails to meet work-related performance and behavior standards" to which all other employees must adhere.

Federal regulators have filed a class action lawsuit alleging a Chicago company tolerated the sexual harassment of several female employees by a senior manager, according to a press release by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

One of the former employees named as a plaintiff in the suit (EEOC v. Jay Medicar Transportation) also alleges retaliation for contacting the agency, EEOC Chicago director John Rowe said:

"Several people complained to the company's management repeatedly. These complaints were allegedly ignored, and one female employee who complained appears to have been fired shortly after the company learned that she had filed a charge with the EEOC."

Employees who are called to active military duty as part of their obligation with the National Guard or Reserves must be rehired upon return, according to the US Dept. of Labor (PDF). The governing law is called the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).

Employees must meet the following four conditions to qualify, as outlined in the language of the law:

  1. Give notice to employer that the leave is for active military duty.
  2. Spend less than five years on leave for military duty (with some reasonable exceptions).
  3. Are honorably released from military service.
  4. Report back for work within predetermined time limits.

Unfortunately not all employers understand their responsibilities under USERRA, according to an article published in the North Jersey Record. 

Chicago Fire Commissioner John Brooks took some vacation time to remove himself from the hot seat while an investigation into his alleged sexual harassment of a lower-ranking employee is launched, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Getting away from public scrutiny is probably a shrewd move in light of allegations that he allegedly called an employee repeatedly, sexually propositioned her, and targeted her for a layoff when she rejected him.

He admitted to calling the woman on the telephone, but his awkward public statement may not have helped his case:

"I have never sexually harassed any woman or man in my life. I do not proposition women. I don't have to. Women usually proposition me. God has blessed me like that."

Once considered something that only happened to women in the workplace, the Associated Press reports that sexual harassment claims by men have doubled from 1990 to 2009.

The overwhelming majority of sexual harassment claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission still are by women, but claims by men doubled from 8 percent of all claims in 1990 to 16 percent last year. That's more than 2,000 out of roughly 12,700 such claims filed in 2009.

But very few of the charges allege harassment by female coworkers or supervisors; as most of the claims filed by men involve alleged harassment by other men.

The Chicago Bar-Tender wrote about a Chicago-area Vietnam veteran's employment discrimination suit on the basis of disability. The former Illinois Dept. of Transportation (IDOT) employee claims the state agency failed to reassign him after his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) allegedly got worse as a result of his particular job assignment.

Fred J. Zimmermann, the plaintiff, filed his disability discrimination suit in federal court with the help of a Chicago employment lawyer.

Mr. Zimmermann claims he was hired in 2006 for highway maintenance work, but soon was transferred to the position of emergency traffic patrol (ETP). He was required to "respond to and clean up fatal car accidents and dead bodies." It's worth repeating that Mr. Zimmermann also is a Vietnam veteran and had been diagnosed with PTSD.

James Maurer, former Chief of Security at O'Hare International Airport, claims he was fired in retaliation after complaining repeatedly about security breaches, as reported by WBBM Chicago (CBS). Mr. Maurer was terminated from his position with the Aviation Dept. last year amidst allegations he physically attacked a co-worker.

His lawsuit seeks reinstatement, back pay and more than $1 million each in compensatory and punitive damages. In a Chicago Sun-Times article, he flatly denied claims he was fired for a heated argument but that it was in retaliation for his insistence on responding to security threats.

He also claimed that O'Hare is the "least secure airport" in the country.

The Chicago Tribune reported on a recent survey by the Restaurant Opportunities Center that indicates a pervasive racial divide in restaurants. While nearly 80 percent of white employees work in the front tending bar and waiting tables, nearly two-thirds of Latino employees work in the kitchen and other "back of the house" positions.

It doesn't mean that all restaurants with similar statistics necessarily are engaging in employment discrimination in a legal sense, but it does suggest a troubling trend.

Waiters and bartenders tend to make more money and are much more visible to customers than those who toil in the kitchen or perform other duties with minimum customer interaction. However, restaurant owners say that choosing an employee who is qualified to match the right wine with a particular menu item often brings up unintended socioeconomic issues.

Chicago Now gay issues blogger Bill Pritchard warns that the Illinois Human Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in addition to race and other characteristics, is in danger of being weakened.  

The culprit? 

A state Senate bill (SB 3447) that Mr. Pritchard admits probably won't pass would carve out an exception for non-profit employers associated with religions that discourage non-heterosexual lifestyles.

So if the law does pass, for example, conservative Christian non-profit organizations would be free to discriminate against gay and lesbian job applicants. They may also be given the green light to fire existing employees who now are protected.

The unemployment rate in Illinois has jumped to 11.1 percent, which is higher than February's national rate of 9.7 percent, according to an article by Fox News Chicago. So despite some claims that the economy is seeing a few so-called "green shoots" of recovery, the reality for many working families in the Windy City is exactly the opposite.

Perhaps even more troubling is Bureau of Labor Statistics data that 40 percent of the nearly 15 million Americans who are officially unemployed have been out of work for more than six months, according to the Chicago Tribune.  

Prospective employers regularly run credit checks on job applicants as part of the pre-screening process, including the state of Illinois. One survey suggests 60 percent of employers do it for at least some applicants, as cited in an article by the Associated Press.

Although it may seem unfair, there's nothing an Illinois employment lawyer can do about it since it's perfectly legal in the state.

But the tide may be changing as the current recession has put pressure on lawmakers to ban the practice in some states, according to the AP article.  

Pre-employment drug screening is common practice among many US employers, although the Dept. of Labor web site indicates that some states prohibit it. Illinois employers are free to screen for illicit drug use, but they are prohibited from requiring an employee or applicant for paying the cost of such a test. 

But what happens when a job applicant tests positive for drugs and insists they never touched the drug in question? 

Cicero employee John Cutler, who claims he falsely tested positive for cocaine, hired a Chicago employment lawyer and challenged his termination. A federal judge in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois partially sides with Mr. Cutler in the employer's motion to dismiss.

Illinois state law has prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity for the past five years, under the Illinois Human Rights Act. Practically speaking, that means workers may not be discriminated against because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered (LGBT).

But while LGBT employees in the Land of Lincoln have the ability to contact an Illinois employment lawyer and file a claim if they're treated unfairly, US federal law does not provide such protections.

However, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007 (ENDA) is poised to change all of that. 

A 2007 Univesity of Illinois at Chicago study concluded that 51 percent of employers facing a unionizing campaign try to coerce workers with bribes or "special favors" and that 30 percent of employers illegally terminate workers who are openly pro-union, according to a press release by the advocacy group American Rights at Work (ARW). 

Even when Chicago employers knowingly violate labor relations and other employment laws, employees often are too intimidated to contact an Illinois employment lawyer for guidance. But some might argue that existing labor laws and regulations favor employers to the detriment of workers.

That's the thrust behind ARW's "Fix Our Jobs" campaign, which serves as both a sounding board for disgruntled workers and as a nationwide petition to Congress to pass employment laws that help employees.

A seemingly steady flow of pornographic and racist e-mails sent by the executives of an Illinois-based business and circulated throughout its Texas office are at the center of a complaint by former employee Olivia Roberts, according to Fox News Chicago. The family-owned company, Harbour Contractors, has worked on several contract jobs for the City of Chicago.  

Ms. Roberts told reporters that it was hardly a case of just a few bad apples, with emails depicting women engaging in oral sex and e-mails ridiculing Hispanics:

"I have collected at least six inches of e-mails on this type of behavior. What does that say?" 

The federal Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 prohibits employers from using genetic information for any employment decisions and also restricts their acquisition of such information, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

"Genetic information" as defined by the law is not limited to clinical lab data, but includes any information that may lead an employer to conclude certain predispositions. In addition to actual genetic data, this may include basic information about family history. Chicago workers who believe a supervisor's decision was based on genetic information should contact an Illinois employment lawyer

Even an employer's glimpse at your Facebook profile may unintentionally violate GINA and trigger an employment discrimination suit, according to the Phoenix Business Journal, but it's still an unsettled area of the law. Commonly known by the acronym GINA, the law took effect on Nov. 21 of last year.

But Illinois passed its own genetic nondiscrimination act more than a decade earlier.

Three separate Illinois Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filings by two Sauk Village police sergeants and another employee allege a pattern of "racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation" since January 2009, according to a Chicago Tribune article. The three individuals claim that the violations occurred after the election of Mayor Lewis Towers.

The complaints are unusual in that they allege systematic employment discrimination by African-American supervisors against white employees. Mayor Towers and others implicated in the complaints are African-American.

WBBM Chicago (CBS) reported that the two unions representing Chicago Transit Authority bus drivers (Amalgamated Transit Union, Divisions 241 and 308) are preparing several lawsuits against management. CTA drivers have threatened a job action in the form of a shutdown due to what they believe is a "lack of respect," as Division 241 President Darrell Jefferson put it.

CTA decided to cut service to save money and also laid off a significant chunk of its workforce.

The unions say they are filing a federal Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuit claiming that CTA drivers have not been paid for time spent learning additional bus routes and that part-timers have been working more than the 32-hour limit outlined in their contract. They also plan to file suit in Cook County Circuit Court on claims that management reneged on various settlements.

Federal protections under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 prevent US workers who take time off for illness or to care for a family member from being subject to disciplinary action, as explained by FindLaw. But Illinois employment lawyers will tell you that the employer is not required to pay you while you're out on sick leave.

That means those working a part-time wage job or otherwise lacking paid sick day benefits often must choose between their health and the prospect of lost wages, according to an article published by Northwestern University's Medill Reports.     

But stalled state legislation offers hope for Illinois workers who struggle with this tough decision.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Brian Fuller Sr., a 48-year-old La Grange worker, died after he was pinned by a truck at a his place of employment in south suburban Blue Island. As is protocol, according to FindLaw, Mr. Fuller's surviving family likely is eligible for death benefits and may want to contact an Illinois worker's compensation attorney.  

Mr. Fuller had worked for building supply company George J. Roll & Sons in Blue Island for more than 15 years, according to reporters. Mr. Fuller's son, 23-year-old Brian Fuller Jr., told the paper that his father supervised the loading of trucks in the company's drywall and lumber yards:

"He worked a strenuous job that was incredibly hard and no one else would do. He put my sister and I through college."