The Chicago Employment Law Blog

June 2010 Archives

Chicago's former Office of Compliance chief, Anthony Boswell, has lost his bid for back pay related to what he said was an improper suspension by Mayor Richard Daley, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Circuit Court Judge James R. Epstein dismissed the suit accusing the mayor of overstepping his authority.

Neither Anthony Boswell nor his Chicago employment lawyer were quoted in the article.

The debacle began when Anthony Boswell was suspended without pay for 30 days for allegedly mishandling a sexual harassment claim made against a 911 center deputy by an intern. Mayor Richard Daley suspended him after Inspector General Joe Ferguson recommended he do so.

Bridgeview Imam Kifah Mustafa filed a discrimination complaint against the Illinois State Police, where he worked as a chaplain, after he was fired for what he said was a misleading background check, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. He claims the police force terminated him based on misleading and biased media reports.

His Illinois employment lawyer, Christina Abraham, said the Illinois State Police (or ISP) terminated her client solely based on allegations of news reporter Steven Emerson that the Islamic cleric was referred to as an "unindicted co-conspirator" to a terrorism plot by federal prosecutors:

"Our case is centered on the idea that he was discriminated against, and had he not been Muslim, born in Lebanon and of a different race, the ISP would not have fired him based on these allegations."

An arbitrator, rather than a judge, may decide whether or not an arbitration agreement is fair, according to a Chicago Tribune article explaining a recent U.S. Supreme Court Decision. The 5-4 decision, largely siding with business, was decided by the conservative majority (PDF).

Pre-employment contracts often stipulate that prospective employees agree to settle disputes via arbitration instead of through the courts. Similarly, the fine print in consumer contracts also usually compels the use of arbitration.

Critics say arbitration is much more expensive for employees, who must pay for the arbitrator (often a retired judge) and have limited options for appeals. Businesses, meanwhile, prefer the speed and the confidential nature of arbitration and say jury trials often are biased against corporations.

Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias signed an executive order extending rights and benefits already provided to spouses of married employees to the domestic partners of gay and lesbian employees, the Chicago Daily Herald reported. The order is effective immediately.

Specifically, the Family and Medical Leave Act will cover not just the spouses and children of married couples but also the partners of gay and lesbian State Treasury Dept. employees. Roughly 180 individuals are employed by the office, according to the Chicago Tribune.

FMLA provides up to 12 unpaid weeks of leave to care for a spouse, child or parent. The order also provides protected bereavement leave for domestic partners. Before the order, gay Treasury Dept. workers couldn't simply call a Chicago employment lawyer and file suit if they were fired after taking medical leave to care for their partner.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said he's more encouraged than ever that more Wal-Mart stores will open within the city limits, according to ABC Chicago. There is currently only one Wal-Mart in Chicago, although there are others in the suburbs.

Richard Daley sounded exasperated by the resistance to the stores, citing the need for job growth in Chicago's inner-city:

"You have to have people starting someplace on jobs. I really believe this. And that's what retailing does. You start here and you move up." 

A Florida woman was fired from her fourth-grade teaching job at the private Southland Christian School for having sex before marriage, MSNBC reports. If that seems outrageous to you, then you're not alone; she's suing the school for discrimination.

Jaretta Hamilton has an 8-month-old daughter and has been married for 16 months; that means she conceived the child just one month before her nuptials. And according to her employer, that was enough of a violation to warrant her termination.

It doesn't take a Chicago employment lawyer to know that her termination most likely violates federal protections against discrimination in the workplace, which is why she filed a federal suit against the school.

Kim Passananti, a former deputy director of day reporting for the Cook County Sheriff's Department, was awarded more than $4 million in a discrimination lawsuit against her old boss, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Her complaint alleged that former boss John. P. Sullivan wrongly accused her of having sex with an inmate from the Cook County jail. She also claimed she was terminated under the false precept that her job had been eliminated, when in fact her position was filled by a man.

Although complaining about one's job is a national pastime, the humility brought about by the "great recession" has prompted people to hold onto whatever they have. But now it looks as though a growing number of workers are beginning to quit their jobs for something better, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

And economists say that's a good thing.

Unlike the previous 15 months, more people quit jobs than were laid off between February and April of this year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Donald Siegel, dean of the University of Albany's school of business, sees the trend as a light at the end of the tunnel:

"I interpret it as a sign of an improving job market ... when people feel confident enough to quit their jobs."

Crain's Chicago Business reported on a survey by recruiting firm Manpower suggesting that the already anemic pace of local hiring is expected to weaken further in the third quarter.

That means more out-of-work Chicagoans will be drawing unemployment insurance and calling Illinois employment lawyers to help with unemployment hearings.

While 18 percent of companies surveyed in the Chicago-Naperville-Joliet region said they planned to add staff between April and June, only 15 percent said they were hiring between July and September. Chicago's unemployment rate held steady at 10.7 percent in April, compared to 9.8 percent in April of last year.

As many as 13 LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) activists were arrested after staging a sit-in demonstration in the Chicago office of Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, The Chicagoist reported. The activists were demanding passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would include LGBT people as a protected class in the context of employment discrimination.

Sen. Dick Durbin is a co-sponsor of the bill. The activists wanted him to sign a pledge of commitment to its passage but he was not in his office during the demonstration.

Staffers reportedly told them the senator "does not sign pledges."

It's hard enough to find work in this lousy economy if you have a clean record. But Illinois residents with arrest records or convictions have an even tougher time finding decent jobs as an increasing number of employers are conducting background checks before hiring new employees.

Joshua Carter, a staff attorney in the expungement unit in the state appellate defender's office quoted by the Southtown Star, recommends having arrest records expunged and convictions sealed, if possible. Joshua Carter, as would most Chicago employment lawyers,  told reporters that "almost everybody" does background checks these days.

Eleven Chicago residents were charged with unemployment insurance (UI) fraud in separate cases announced by the US Attorney's office, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Together, the alleged fraud constitutes more than $255,000 in stolen money from the Illinois Dept. of Employment Security.

But Chicago employment lawyers won't be able to help the defendants in these cases, which are violations of criminal law.

Essentially, those charged allegedly lied about their eligibility by fraudulently claiming they were unemployed when they had jobs. The alleged theft of benefits ranges from $15,232 to $41,764.

Downstate newspaper St. Clair Record reported on a lawsuit by Cahokia resident Antoine Smith, who claims he former employee canned him after he filed for workers comp insurance. He worked for Allied Services in 2008 from Aug. 18 through Nov. 12, when he was terminated.

Antoine Smith claims he sustained work-related injuries on Sept. 4, 2008, reported the incident to his employer and sought medical attention. He then filed a claim, took some time off work and received benefits.

However, as his Illinois workers compensation attorney stated in the complaint, Antoine Smith received notification that he was being let go:

"...he was terminated under the pretext of leaving work without notification and a reduction in the work force but was actually terminated due to his exercise of rights under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act."

Most workers who lose their job due due to no fault of their own are entitled to unemployment insurance benefits, according to FindLaw, usually as the result of a reduction in force. Usually it's fairly clear whether an employee quit, was fired for cause or was laid off.

But not always.

If the employer contests a Chicago employee's claim and it's not absolutely clear which party is correct, the Illinois Dept. of Employment Security often will schedule a hearing. And whether you hire a Chicago employment lawyer or go it alone, it's crucial to be prepared.