July 2011 News: The Chicago Employment Law Blog

The Chicago Employment Law Blog

July 2011 Archives

Promens USA to Pay $225,000 Sexual Harassment Settlement

Promens USA has agreed to pay a $225,000 sexual harassment settlement in a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The Chicago EEOC office sued the plastics manufacturing company on behalf of four women over sexual harassment, retaliation for rejecting their supervisor’s sexual advances, and denial of job opportunities due to gender.

According to the EEOC, a Promens supervisor engaged in quid pro quo sexual harassment with temporary female workers. Quid pro quo harassment generally means that the supervisor made a condition of the job contingent on the workers’ consenting to the sexual harassment. In this case, the supervisor made repeated sexual advances on the temporary workers and conditioned the women’s continued employment on their acceptance of the sexual advances. If the women turned him down, the EEOC alleges the supervisor fired them.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is holding a meeting in Washington D.C. this week to discuss the problem of employers who don’t hire convicted felons. While this hiring practice is not one of the types of workplace discrimination, the EEOC is urging employers to be more open-minded when considering hiring those with a criminal history.

According to the EEOC press releases, employers often refuse to hire people with arrest and conviction records even years after they have completed their sentences. This may be due to stereotypes and irrational fears of ex-cons. However, this hiring practice is often unfair to those with a criminal history as it prevents them from reentering the workforce and becoming productive members of society — which can lead to recidivism and other social costs.

CPS Testing Blacklisting Chicago School Teachers?

Potential Chicago School teachers are crying foul over CPS testing that they say is blacklisting them from becoming teachers.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago public schools (CPS) require teaching applicants to take an exam testing their “soft skills” prior to hiring. The examination, TeacherFit, tests things like “personality and attitude” of potential teachers as well as student focus, planning and organizing, results-focus, and perseverance and self-initiative, reports the Sun-Times.

Applicants who do not score high on the test are essentially blocked from teaching positions for the next 18 months. At which point, they can reapply and retake the test.

Samantha Vasich, a 27-year-old Chicago woman, has sued the Chicago Fire Department claiming that the job application test to become a firefighter constitutes workplace sex discrimination. This is just the latest firefighter lawsuit regarding the entrance exam for firefighters.

According to NBC, all job applicants must take a physical abilities test prior to entering the city's fire academy. The test includes gym exercises like arm lifts, arm endurance tests, and leg lifts.

Vasich says that she took the test and thought she had done well enough to pass, reports NBC. But instead, she failed.

Chicago Layoffs: Chicago City Workers/Chicago Unions Suffer

Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent out the notices of Chicago layoffs to 625 city employees. If carried through, Chicago city workers and Chicago unions will suffer from the Mayor's decision. The decision to finally mail the layoff notices comes weeks after Emanuel initially threatened the act.

Faced with a $30 million budget deficit, Emanuel had sought to work with the unions to avoid the layoffs while also avoiding the use of furloughs. Two weeks ago, Emanuel had proposed nine workplace rule changes to the unions that would help the groups close the gap.

Race Discrimination Lawsuit Against Jackson Park Hospital

The EEOC has filed a race discrimination lawsuit against Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center in Chicago.

According to the EEOC announcement, the hospital allegedly subjected black female employees to different terms and conditions of employment from white male employees. The lawsuit claims that job assignments were given based on the employees’ race and that black female workers were often given jobs that their white male counterparts were not. In addition, the lawsuit charges the hospital with retaliation after allegedly demoting a woman who complained about the unlawful employment practices.

After waging what would seem like a war against the unions, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is now considering giving some city workers a benefit that they surprisingly do not already enjoy — paid maternity leave.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Emanuel is currently undergoing a comprehensive review of employee leaves including maternity leave policies. While Emanuel is likely to streamline — and reduce — employee leaves of absence, the mayor is also considering giving paid maternity leave to over 10,000 female city employees.

Negotiating the Benefits of Being a City of Chicago Employee

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been taking on the City of Chicago employee unions in an effort to reduce the city budget.

Last month, Emanuel issued an ultimatum to the unions that they could either accept his proposed work reforms or face layoffs to over 600 workers. At the time it wasn't publicized what Emanuel's proposed work reforms were. Emanuel only said that the work reforms were nothing outrageous and were common workplace practices in just about every other setting.

Boy, was Emanuel right.

Town of Cicero President, Larry Dominick, has been accused of discrimination based on race after he allegedly fired a town employee for being Hispanic.

According to ABC, Merced Rojas, a Cicero employee since 1995, was working as a handyman and claims that he was fired a year after Dominick was elected town president.

In his lawsuit, Rojas says that his relationship with Dominick started off on the right foot as Dominick sought him out due to political connections in Rojas' family. However, Rojas claims that the relationship soured when his wife's Spanish-language newspaper began to run negative articles about Dominick, reports ABC.

Rojas says that Dominick engaged in discrimination based on race as Rojas was fired shortly after the articles ran.

In response, Dominick said that Rojas was fired for his poor work ethic and for moonlighting on town time.

The Great Recession hit all levels of workers with all levels of education and experience. A Chicago Tribune article discussed some of the troubles facing a particular set of unemployed Chicago attorneys -- the older, more experienced attorney.

According to the Tribune, a group called the "Senior In-House Counsel In Transition" meets every two weeks to discuss job leads and more importantly to vent about the general lack of opportunities for its members -- attorneys who have at least 15 years of experience.

In their meetings, members discuss the dismal job market for experienced attorneys even when the overall legal job market seems to be improving.