June 2011 News: The Chicago Employment Law Blog

The Chicago Employment Law Blog

June 2011 Archives

Governor Pat Quinn Signs Workers' Compensation Reform Laws

Governor Pat Quinn signed a new workers' compensation law that would significantly help Illinois businesses save money. Whether the new law helps injured workers is another issue.

According to the Associated Press, the new workers' compensation law would save Illinois businesses between $500 and $700 million by cutting the premiums they have to pay into the system.

The workers' compensation system is basically an employer-funded insurance program for injured workers. Workers injured on the job can receive benefits like medical assistance and lost wages from the workers' compensation fund. That fund (worth about $3 billion) comes from premiums that businesses pay for each of their workers.

Rahm Emanuel Ultimatum to Unions: Layoffs or Work Reforms

Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued an ultimatum to Chicago city unions -- either accept his proposed work reforms or prepare for the layoff of 625 city workers.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Emanuel's ultimatum comes with the looming end to city employee furloughs. Previously, former mayor Richard Daley and the city worker unions reached an agreement for 24 unpaid furlough days for city workers in an effort to reduce the city's budget. Now that agreement is set to expire.

An opponent of furloughs, Emanuel has come out saying that furloughs are a drain on employee morale and that they don't really save the city that much money anyway. Emanuel has vowed to reduce the city's budget, while avoiding the use of furloughs.

Chicago Cubs Owner Joe Ricketts Sued for Retaliation

Two former employees of Joe Ricketts' Omaha-based charity Opportunity Education Foundation have sued Ricketts claiming retaliation after they say they were fired for complaining about sexual harassment.

Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade and the owner of the Chicago Cubs, denied the allegations and says that he welcomes the opportunity to rebut the charges in court, reports ESPN.

According to ESPN, the allegations stem from the 2009 firing of both women. In their lawsuit, Patricia Davis and Patricia Duncan allege that they were subject to sexual harassment by the COO of the Opportunity Education Foundation. They claim that the COO made inappropriate comments about the women's body parts and discussed his own sex life in front of the women.

Chetrit Group Settles Religious Discrimination Claim

The Chetrit Group, owner of the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower), has settled a religious discrimination lawsuit brought by a former employee claiming he was fired for not being Jewish enough.

According to The Real Deal, Les Kramsky was hired to be Chetrit's in-house counsel in 2009. During his interview, Kramsky says that he mentioned his son's bar mitzvah to Joseph Chetrit, the Group's managing member and practicing Orthodox Jew, and this led to a mistaken belief by Chetrit that Kramsky was also Orthodox. Kramsky believes his mistaken religious affiliation was the main reason he was hired.

Police Supt. Jody Weis Nets $76,308 in Unused Vacation Pay

For a little over three years of work, former Chicago Police Superintendant Jody Weis took home $76,308 in unused vacation pay when he resigned earlier this year. This amount translated to 64 days of unused vacation days.

While this amount may seem high, it's even more alarming when you consider that most city employees who bypass taking any vacation would only have been able to claim 26 vacation days over the same period of time reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

In a decision that could change the landscape of employment class action lawsuits, the Supreme Court of the United States denied the class status of a group of female Walmart workers claiming sex discrimination against the company. The Supreme Court basically held that the class of female workers, which could have numbered in the millions, did not have similar enough claims to justify a single lawsuit against Walmart, reports Reuters.

According to Reuters, a class of female workers claimed that Walmart engaged in sex discrimination by paying them less than male workers, and promoting them less often than their male counterparts. But to bring a class action, the women needed to have substantially the same claim against the company.

Layoffs in Chicago Means More Unemployment Claims

The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), the state agency that processes unemployment claims and benefits, is about to get a lot busier as a rash of recent layoff announcements struck the Chicago-area.

Chicago-based Sears Holding Co. just announced the layoffs of 700 employees, citing slumping sales. Shortly thereafter, Batavia-based Fermilab asked 100 employees to voluntarily quit or risk being laid off due to mounting expenses. Earlier this month, Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios began the process to layoff would could be a third of her 355 Chicago-based workers after she ended the Oprah show.

Chicago Teachers May Strike: They Only Get One Pay Raise

The Chicago School Board voted to not give teachers a four percent pay raise that would cost the city $100 million. The Chicago Teachers Union fired back and announced that it did not accept the board's decision, and that it intends to negotiate the decision, potentially opening the door to a strike, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

According to the Sun-Times, the Chicago School Board justified its decision not to grant a pay raise given the dire economic situation the school district was facing and its $712 million deficit.

A federal jury in Southern Illinois awarded Ashley Alford $95 million in what may be the largest sexual harassment payout ever. Alford, who worked as a sales representative at Aaron’s Inc. was awarded $15 million in compensatory damages and $80 million in punitive damages, reports Reuters.

Soon after joining Aaron’s, a large furniture chain store, Alford claimed that her male colleagues engaged in a campaign of sexual harassment against her. According to Reuters, the store’s general manager, Richard Moore, was the primary harasser; nicknaming Alford “Trixie,” making inappropriate comments, and groping her.

Kraft/Cadbury warehouse employees in Joliet filed a class-action lawsuit against their employer, a staffing agency called Prologistix, claiming that they were cheated out of wages. The warehouse employees were assisted by Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ), a Chicago-based organization that has now brought eight legal actions against warehouse staffing agencies like Prologistix reports The Herald News.

In the lawsuit, the warehouse workers allege that they weren't paid for the hours they worked or earned vacation time, and that they weren't properly informed of their wage rates.

A jury in Peoria returned a $600,000 verdict against a Macomb, Illinois AutoZone for failing to provide reasonable accommodations to a disabled sales manager. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) announced its victory in a press release adding that another claim for $115,000 in back pay is still pending.

In its lawsuit, the EEOC charged the AutoZone with violating the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) by requiring a disabled sales manager to perform cleaning tasks that violated his medical restrictions. The sales manager suffered from permanent back and neck impairments and could not perform certain duties like mopping. The sales manager had requested that these duties be reassigned, but Macomb AutoZone refused and required that the sales manager perform these duties anyway. As a result, the sales manager aggravated his injuries and had to take additional leave.

Ten current and former employees of the Tilted Kilt sports bar in The Loop have filed a sexual harassment complaint against the bar. The group of employees, all women, claims that a Tilted Kilt manager made sexually explicit comments, engaged in inappropriate touching, and made unwanted sexual advances reports the Chicago Tribune.

The Tilted Kilt may be best known as a sports bar where waitresses wear short skirts and provocative uniforms. However, that does not mean that the waitresses signed up to be sexually harassed.

More Furlough Days for Cook County Workers says Preckwinkle

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle promises more unpaid furlough days for Cook County workers in the coming year.

Faced with a $487 million budget deficit, Preckwinkle stated that Cook County government workers will have to take another ten furlough days next year, just as they have this year, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. And as Cook County projects further shortfalls in the coming years, Periwinkle said that furlough days will continue beyond next year and to the “foreseeable future.”

Preckwinkle herself will be subject to the ten furlough days.