The Chicago Employment Law Blog

July 2010 Archives

Yellow Transportation, which was sued by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in December on charges of racial description, was just ordered to turn over the names and contact information of current and former black employees, according to the Southtown Star. 

Plaintiffs, with the help of their Illinois employment lawyers, sued Yellow and parent company YRC Inc. for failing to take action after several black employees complained to supervisors about alleged discriminatory working conditions. YRC is in the freight hauling business. 

The Belleville News-Democrat reported on the renewed willingness of teacher unions to give in a little as they negotiate new contracts, in light of the state's severe budget shortages. The good news is that none of the area's school districts seem to be digging in for a fight or strikes.

Jim Rosborg, director of graduate education at McKendree University and former Belleville School District 118 superintendent, said he expects contract negotiations to go much more smoothly than they have in the past:

"The difference is, teachers have been used to getting raises and now, with the economy the way it is, they're going to see less raises. Generally, a union does not like to give up any previous benefits it has achieved."

The good news is that the unemployment rate actually fell in most states last month, according to the Chicago Daily Herald. The bad news? Illinois is not on that list and saw its jobless rate increase to 10.4 percent for June, up from 10 percent in May but still better than the 10.7 percent reported for April.

Adding insult injury, 39 states actually saw falling unemployment numbers; although many people simply have stopped looking for work. But beyond the numbers, job growth all over the country remains weak; just 21 states saw net job gains last month.

A Madison County man filed a lawsuit against a Little Caesars pizza franchise, according to the Madison St. Claire Record, claiming his supervisor sexually harassed him.

Plaintiff Mathew Mangara claims his supervisor, David Kelley, made repeated and unwanted sexual innuendos toward between July 6, 2008 and July 29, 2008. He also claims that David Kelley offered him money for sex.

While English is the official language of the United States and many professions justifiably demand proficiency in the English language, is it legal to terminate an employee for speaking another tongue? What if it's a friendly conversation during one's lunch break?

Three Filipino nurses who were fired from a Baltimore hospital are testing the limits of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin (among other things), according to Newsdesk.org.

Their offense was simply speaking their native Tagalog while eating lunch, in violation of the hospital's English-only law they claim violates their constitutional rights. Since it's a matter of federal law and not based on Maryland employment statute, any precedent set by the case would be closely watched by Illinois employment lawyers as well. 

Illinois Minimum Wage Now $8.25

As reported by The News-Gazette, the Illinois minimum wage went up to $8.25 an hour on July 1. Workers earning less than that, with a few exceptions (explained below), may want to contact an Illinois employment lawyer to review their legal options.

The Illinois Dept. of Labor encourages workers who believe they're not being paid fairly to call 1-800-478-3998.

The increase means Illinois now has the third-highest minimum wage in the nation, behind Washington and Oregon. Legislation passed in 2006 increased the wage from $6.50 to $7.50 in 2007, mandating 25-cent increases for the following three years.

According to an article by Fox News, University of Illinois professor Ken Howell was fired for teaching about Catholicism's belief that homosexuality is immoral. Although he admits to openly agreeing with the church's position, he said his termination had more to do with the legitimate subject matter of his Catholicism class.

Not only was he fired but he also lost his other job at an on-campus Catholic center. Illinois injury attorneys with The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal defense group, are considering stepping in to help Ken Howell with a possible lawsuit.

While an Illinois bill that would legalize the medical use of medical marijuana by seriously ill patients remains stalled, mainly because it's an election year, an NBC Chicago article cited sources who believe the legislation may get sparked up again in January.

As medical marijuana patients who live in states that already allow the therapeutic use of the herb know too well, often their right to medicate conflicts with employers' rights to terminate workers for drug use. Illinois employment lawyers following developments in other states would tell their clients the same thing.

But the termination of Walmart employee Joseph Casias, as CBS News reported, proves there's not much legal protection for employees' use of medical marijuana, even off the clock.

R&B singer R. Kelly, whose real name is Robert Kelly, was sued by a former employee for allegedly unpaid overtime, Fox Chicago reported. Anthony Navarro, was hired as a "runner" by R. Kelly's Bass Productions Ltd., claims violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Illinois Minimum Wage Law.

The two-count suit seeks compensatory damages for overtime hours he claims were unfairly compensated and the cost of his Illinois employment lawyer. He also claims other tour employees also were not adequately paid, but it's unclear whether or not they also have filed suit.

After more than a week, the two sides of a widespread Chicago construction workers strike have not yet been able to negotiate an agreement (as of Wednesday), the Chicago Tribune reported. An agreement could come within days but the impacts of the labor stoppage already are being felt.

Central to the contract dispute are issues of health care benefits and wages; the unions and the construction companies remain at least 10 percent apart on total compensation, according to reporters.

As a Chicago employment lawyer would attest, labor unions offer unique protections and advantages for their members. One of which is the ability to collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions, as explained by FindLaw. 

Just when we thought the economy couldn't get much worse, the Associated Press cites numbers from the U.S. Labor Dept. showing that employers cut 125,000 jobs in June, the most since last October. While businesses added 83,000 workers, 225,000 temporary census jobs have ended.

And while the unemployment rate dropped to 9.5 percent, the lowest rate since this time last year, it is largely attributed to the fact that 650,000 people gave up looking for work or were cut off from jobless benefits and weren't counted.

Union leaders have asked Chicago-area construction firms to return to negotiations before a planned meeting next week to discuss ending a citywide construction workers strike, the Chicago Tribune reported. the strike has put work on the Eisenhower Expressway and elsewhere on hold.

Operating Engineers Local 150 leader James Sweeney wrote a letter to the Mid-America Regional Bargaining Association (MARBA) asking them, "Why wait?"

As FindLaw explains, union members collectively bargain with employers for wages, benefits, working conditions and related matters. When negotiations break down, strikes often follow. If you believe your rights as a union member have been violated, you may consider calling a Chicago employment lawyer specializing in unions.