The Chicago Employment Law Blog

October 2010 Archives

Science Daily reported on scientific research showing that young, tall and long-armed women were considered the most attractive across cultural divides. But other studies point out how curvy women often suffer in the workplace and have limited upward mobility, according to a Yahoo article.

Very few instances of weight-based discrimination can seek remedy in civil court and in fact Michigan is the only state that bars discrimination on the basis of weight.

Workers classified as independent contractors are treated like sole proprietors and given 1099 tax forms instead of W-2s. But since independent contractors don't have to be paid benefits or overtime and employers don't pay into their unemployment benefits, it's a classification sometimes abused by unscrupulous employers, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Cable installer Joe Marte found out the hard way. He was simultaneously classified as both an independent contractor and an employee for Baker Installations, doing the same work regardless. He said he often worked overtime but wasn't paid for it and didn't receive benefits extended to those classified solely as employees:

"They had said we're supposed to be employees, but they still wanted to pay us as independent contractors."

Carla Oglesby, Cook County Board President Todd Stroger's former deputy chief of staff, filed for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits even though she was fired from her post for alleged theft of roughly $300,000 in taxpayer money, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

An unidentified source told reporters that Carla Oglesby filed her claim with the Illinois Department of Employment Security less than a week after her Oct. 4 arrest. 

Unemployment benefits are for those who are laid off through no fault of their own, according to FindLaw. Although anyone accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty, her UI filing could be perceived as a ploy to defend against the charges.

Mary Wright, a former equal employment opportunity officer for the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, claims she was demoted and treated harshly after reporting alleged ethics violations involving former Chief Procurement Officer Albert Murillo, according to the Chicago Daily Herald.

Mary Wright found evidence shedding light on a conflict of interest the former official had with a tollway contractor, according to the complaint, which was filed in DuPage County court.

Illinois state law does not explicitly prohibit employers from discriminating against obese employees; in fact, Michigan is the only state that bans workplace bias on the basis of weight, according to The New York Times. Still, some obese plaintiffs have sued employers under the authority of the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to an article in HR Morning.

As Americans' collective waistlines have grown, so have claims of obesity-related bias in the workplace. A lawsuit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed against Resources for Human Development (RHD), a non-profit organization, may test this legal theory.

Lisa Harrison claims RHD terminated her employment as a counselor because the employer perceived her as being disabled. As FindLaw explains, even employees who are merely perceived as being disabled are protected in the same manner as someone who is in fact disabled.

Even most people who couldn't care less about football have heard about allegations that veteran NFL quarterback Brett Favre sent unwanted voice mails and inappropriate images to fellow NFL employee Jenn Sterger, as a Boston Globe article recounts. He was playing for the New York Jets at the time, while Jenn Sterger was working as a game hostess for the team.

Put aside the fact that Brett Favre is one of football's most celebrated competitors and the fact that Jenn Sterger once posed for Playboy. At its most basic level, this is just a classic allegation of workplace sexual harassment.

Tribune Co. chief innovation officer Lee Abrams made a public apology for sending out inappropriate, sexually explicit videos in companywide emails, according to the Chicago Tribune (which is owned by the Tribune Co.). He said he was sorry "to everyone who was offended" in another company email earlier this week.

The story mentioned a New York Times article that characterized the company executive's alleged "sexist, frat house" culture. Lee Abrams said he used "poor judgment" when sending out an email labeled "sluts" with links to a video of a gyrating woman pouring liquor on her bare breasts.

The bottom line is that companies are very reluctant to hire because there isn't much visibility into what the market will look like just around the corner. But while that may seem reasonable from a business perspective, what really bothers jobless Americans is the seemingly endless foot-dragging by companies that actually have unfilled positions, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Employers can afford to be picky when the unemployment rate hovers around the 9.6 percent range. Some jobseekers have even reported seeing help wanted ads with "unemployed need not apply" disclaimers, as some recruiters believe the best people already have jobs.

Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who resigned his post to return to his native Chicago for the upcoming mayoral election, has received the cold shoulder from several black and Latino political leaders and constituents, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported.

His less-than-warm embrace from some prominent Chicago Democrats has to do with the perception that the Obama Administration didn't do enough to boost employment in the city's poorer neighborhoods.

While it might be okay to joke around with your dad by calling him "old man," the same doesn't apply in the workplace, where age bias is strictly against federal and state laws. But deciding if and when to sue for age discrimination is another matter altogether, as reported by Smart Money.

The article mentions the backdrop of the tight job market, which has forced many otherwise retirement-age workers into postponing the end of their professional careers. That means more jobseekers from all age groups are competing for a tiny number of job openings.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on former Illinois state trooper Matt Mitchell's attempt to collect workers compensation benefits for injuries he sustained in a collision near Scott Air Force Base. But while he recovered from his minor injuries, teenage sisters Jessica Uhl and Kelli Uhl died in the 2007 crash.

In fact, the ex-officer pleaded guilty to two counts of reckless homicide and was placed on 30 months probation. But Matt Mitchell still received his $67,000 annual salary for almost two years while his criminal case played out. The Illinois State Police was planning a disciplinary case against him, so he resigned instead.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Court of Claims is expected to issue a verdict in the $46 million wrongful death suit filed by the girls' parents soon.

The Chicago Daily Herald reported that three former employees at Jimmy's Charhouse in Elgin sued the restaurant for sexual harassment and retaliation. They claim they were fired after complaining about the alleged harassment to management.

Plaintiffs Carol Edwards, Jamie Schock and Lisa Swanson are seeking back pay (with interest), health care and job search expenses, and punitive damages. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued in federal court on their behalf.

While Illinois gubernatorial candidates Bill Brady, a Republican, and current Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn actually agreed that riverboat gambling casinos should not be allowed in Chicago, according to the Chicago Tribune, they have radically different views on policies that would affect employment in the state.

Pat Quinn, who has called for higher state income taxes to prevent massive teacher layoffs, said his rival's proposal to reduce state spending by at least 10 percent would trigger an "economic disaster." Bill Brady's tax cuts, he argued, would cost schools about $1.2 billion and would have to come from somewhere.