The Chicago Employment Law Blog

November 2010 Archives

Retailer Walmart Stores Inc. vowed to appeal the ruling when a lower court allowed a class-action lawsuit of about 1 million current and former female employees to move forward, Reuters explained. A smaller group of women claimed they were paid less than their male counterparts and passed up for promotions. The class-action lawsuit exposes Walmart to literally billions of dollars in potential damages.

The US Supreme Court has not yet decided to take up the case but may decide to do so next Monday, when Justices are scheduled to consider pending appeals, USA Today reported. The newspaper reported that nine influential business groups and organizations, including the US Chamber of Commerce, urged the Supreme Court to hear the appeal.

Beverly Tallant filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Madison County employer Sun Loan Company Illinois, according to the St. Claire Record. She claims she was fired just days after she allegedly told her supervisors she needed a hip replacement.

She was admitted to the hospital on Feb. 3, 2009 and told a hip replacement would ease her severe pain and disability. She returned to work on Feb. 12, before the surgery, and spent a full day on the job despite her alleged pain.

Oak Park Village was hit with a pair of unrelated employment discrimination lawsuits, one claiming he was fired for being gay and the other alleging religious discrimination based on her Jehovah’s Witness faith, according to The Pioneer Local.

Religious discrimination in the workplace is prohibited by both state and federal law. Employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, though not banned by federal law, is prohibited in Illinois, according to the Illinois Department of Human Rights.

Usually the best way to find out whether or not Company X is a good place to work is to talk candidly with an employee or two. That’s kind of the thinking behind the Chicago Tribune’s Top Work Places 2010, which ranks Chicago employers based on input from employees.

The listing ranks employers by size (small, medium and large companies) and the web site provides an interactive map of the city dotted with the ranked employers.

Can your employer terminate you for posting unflattering comments about your boss on Facebook? American Medical Response of Connecticut did just that, as reported by The New York Times, but the National Labor Relations Board accused the company of illegally firing her.

Emergency medical technician Dawnmarie Souza criticized her boss on Facebook, which the NLRB insists is a protected activity. The labor board filed a complaint against American Medical Response of Connecticut for the termination.

James Crowley, former senior legal counsel for Chicago State University, claims he was fired from his job because he refused to provide cover for incoming university president Wayne Watson, according to the Courthouse News Service. He filed a lawsuit claiming wrongful termination and retaliation (PDF).

The hiring of Wayne Watson caused an uproar among the university community, including the resignation of the University Search Committee in 2009, he explained in his complaint:

"Watson's hiring resulted in protests from students, faculty and administrators. As a result, the media covered Watson's hiring and the protests, and this generated numerous requests for information regarding his hiring."

Former Illinois hospital employee and Army reservist Vincent Staub's employment discrimination case has reached the US Supreme Court, Inc. Magazine reported. The somewhat complex case was selected by the nation's highest court because it involves an issue that divides federal courts:

Should an employer be held accountable for workplace discrimination that leads to a termination when the discrimination is not committed by the person making the firing decision?

The issue is referred to as the "cat's paw" theory in some legal circles, named after a 17th Century French fable involving a monkey who convinces a cat to grab some chestnuts from a fire. When the cat retracts his burned paw, the monkey takes the chestnuts and runs off.

The Naperville Sun reported that every metropolitan area in the state saw a drop in unemployment in September for the first time since March 2007, citing the most recent data from the Illinois Dept. of Employment Security (IDES). But the national unemployment rate remains stuck at 9.6 percent, according to the Chicago Tribune (citing US Labor Dept. data).

More specifically, the Chicago-Joliet-Naperville metro area reported a 9.4 percent unemployment rate in September, compared to 10.4 percent last September. And while the Illinois economy grew 0.9 percent so far this year, the national economy grew at just over half that rate (0.5 percent) in 2010.

American Airlines employee Donna Montefusco, who works at O'Hare Airport, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the company, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. She claims some co-workers, including supervisors, groped her breasts and made lewd comments.

Her complaint illustrates a pattern of long term harassment from a male-dominated overnight crew. She was hired in 2006 as an assistant in the airline's maintenance and engineering department and claims the unwanted sexual advances and sexually charged comments began soon after she started the job.

Advocates for the rights of ex-prisoners claim pre-employment questions about criminal records violate those applicants' civil rights, according to The Crime Report. The paradox is that former inmates have much better odds at turning their lives around if they can find steady work; absent employment, many of them return to crime to make ends meet.

In fact, a three-year study completed in 2008 found that Illinois inmates who received employment services and were able to keep jobs for 30 days had a recidivism rate (the ratio of those who return to prison) of 18 percent (PDF). That was 62 percent lower than the statewide recidivism rate for the same period.

Whether forwarding sexually explicit emails to colleagues or sending digital photos of a particular body part in a misguided attempt to win the recipient's affection (as football veteran Brett Favre has been accused), it's best not to send sexy emails or text messages in the workplace at all, Crain's Chicago Business reported. 

Nancy Flynn, who leads the ePolicy Institute in Columbus, Ohio, said the recent proliferation of social media and the ubiquity of digital communication have made this an increasingly common occurrence:

"For some reason, people still struggle with inappropriate e-mail, and then you layer on social media and mobile technology and it just gets worse and worse."