The Chicago Employment Law Blog

September 2010 Archives

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued parcel courier DHL Express (USA) Inc. for alleged racial discrimination against black employees in its Chicago-area facilities, Bloomberg reported. The lawsuit follows at least 20 complaints against the company's U.S. unit filed with the EEOC. DHL is headquartered in Bonn, Germany.

Specifically, racial discrimination complaints claim DHL routinely gave its black Chicago-area drivers assignments in predominantly black Chicago neighborhoods and assigned its white drivers to mostly white neighborhoods. The EEOC claims black workers, as a result, often had to work in more dangerous neighborhoods than their white coworkers.

Sadly, the growing backlash against Muslims in the United States is being experienced in the workplace at a record level, according to a New York Times article citing figures from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. There seems to be a rise in discrimination complaints among Muslim Americans.

EEOC complaints alleging anti-Muslim bias in the workplace numbered a record 803 for the year ending Sept. 30, 2009, up 20 percent from the previous year and a nearly 60 percent spike from 2005. Muslims make up merely 2 percent of the US population, although bias complaints by Muslims accounted for roughly 25 percent of the total.

ABC's Chicago affiliate reported on a study by the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) concluding that the high-speed rail corridor between Chicago and St. Louis will create 57,000 permanent jobs in Illinois. Work already has begun in southern Illinois on the first 90 miles of track.

While this may not help everyone in the state who has been jobless for long stretches, some of whom may have contacted Illinois employment lawyers to help with unemployment insurance claims, it's definitely encouraging.

It's particularly welcome news in light of the Chicago Transit Authority's recent decision to cut at least 70 jobs next year, as reported last week by the Chicago Tribune. Already, more than 1,100 CTA employees have been affected by layoffs and service cuts this year.

YRC Inc., the freight hauling company comprised of the merged resources of Yellow Transportation and Roadway Express, settled a racial discrimination lawsuit for $10 million, the Chicago Tribune reported. The settlement ended a nearly four-year trial in federal court.

More than 300 current and previous employees of YRC Inc. and Roadway Express, not to mention their Illinois employment lawyers, will split the award unless there are any objections to the preliminary approval. The suit was filed in 2006, before Yellow and Roadway Express merged to become YRC.

An Illinois jobless rate of 10.1 percent is nothing to get too excited about; but at least it's better than it was a month ago, if only marginally, as an Illinois Dept. of Employment Security (IDES) press release states.

Hopefully the trend will continue and fewer Illinois residents will be filing for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits or hiring Illinois employment lawyers to appeal the denial of benefits. In fact, August is the eight consecutive month of either steady or declining unemployment rates.

The Chicago Tribune reported that an Illinois-based subsidiary of Tyson Foods Inc. discriminated against women seeking entry-level jobs, according to the U.S. Labor Dept.

Tyson Fresh Meats' hiring policy has been biased against women since January 2003 and has resulted in the rejection of more than 750 women applicants, the DOL claims. The meat packing plant is located in Joslin, near Quad Cities.

The DOL's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) requested that Tyson's federal contracts be canceled, that it pay the 750 women back wages and that it give at least 100 of the applicants the option of working for the company.

The "new normal, post-recession Chicago area family" is less likely to work a traditional union job or a lower-level white-collar job, according to a Chicago Sun-Times article citing analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Instead, Chicagoans are more likely to find work in the still-booming health care field or in low-wage fast food restaurant jobs. John Challenger of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas pointed out that energy, finance and accounting also are hot job fields; while education remains relatively secure.

But as many of the area's workers have realized, some of whom had to fight for their unemployment insurance benefits with the help of a Chicago employment lawyer, the middle class is shrinking fast.

Troubled pop star Britney Spears has been sued for sexual harassment by former bodyguard Fernando Flores, according to CBS News. He claims she exposed herself to him repeatedly and also said she hit her two sons, Sean Preston and Jayden, with a belt.

Britney Spears denies the claims, of course; but this is not unlike other work-related sexual harassment cases, Illinois employment lawyers would say, other than its high-profile defendant.

Most American workers are granted the day off for the Christian observance of Christmas, which arguably has morphed into a secular holiday, but what about Muslims who celebrate Eid or Jews who celebrate Rosh Hashanah?

FindLaw tells us that employers have a duty to accommodate the religious customs and observances of their workers, just as long as the accommodation doesn't over burden the employer. 

To use FindLaw's example, a disc jockey that is fired because his religion forbids him from listening to rock and roll music wouldn't have much of a need to contact a Chicago employment lawyer. If playing rock and roll is the radio station's business, then accommodating the disc jockey most certainly would create a serious burden.

At the front of most people's minds these days is the anemic job market and stubbornly high unemployment rate. But even those lucky enough to have jobs are facing declines in wages, while costs associated with health care continue to skyrocket, the Peoria Journal Star reported.

When the economy is weak, resulting in more unemployment insurance disputes and employment-based lawsuits, the demand for Illinois employment lawyers often increases. 

And until the middle class begins sharing in the prosperity that has become highly concentrated among the wealthy, argues economist Robert Reich, the economy will not pull itself out of the ditch.

The Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Illinois State Police over the abrupt termination of a local Muslim cleric who served as a chaplain on the force, according to the Chicago Tribune.

CAIR-Chicago staff attorney Kevin Vodak, serving as Sheikh Kifah Mustapha's Illinois employment lawyer, said the reasons given for rescinding his employment offer simply didn't make any sense:

"There was no specific reason given other than that he failed the background check. ... All of the other chaplains that went through the same program were accepted."

Men and women are equally protected against sexual discrimination in the workplace under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, although it typically has been considered a key protection for women. But now an increasing number of men are filing sexual harassment and gender bias claims, according to the trade journal Business Insurance.

Attorneys, including Illinois employment lawyers, attribute the rise in claims to men's overall greater awareness of the fact that they are covered by US law just as much as women. Attorneys also say the crippled economy may also be a factor, as some terminated employees may feel more compelled than ever to file a claim.