The Chicago Employment Law Blog

October 2012 Archives

Time Off for Voting: Do You Get Paid Leave?

Are you working a 12-hour shift? If not, then you probably don’t get paid time off for voting.

There are two ways to get time off for voting. The first is simply having an accommodating boss. The second is by Illinois’ state law, which provides a limited set of circumstances in which an employee is entitled to paid time off.

Firefighter Discrimination Tab Doubles Estimates: $78.4 Million

In 1995, the City of Chicago hired an African American to write the firefighter’s entrance exam in hopes of diversifying a historically discriminatory department. The results were not encouraging for minorities initially, and even worse after the city established a cutoff score of 89 and hired randomly from the top 1,800 candidates. Seventy-eight percent of those in the hiring pool were white, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

A class action lawsuit alleging discriminatory hiring practices was filed and a federal judge ruled against the city in 2005. The judgment was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010.

Myth Busted: Are Salaried Workers Entitled to Overtime Pay?

Many are familiar with the common abuse of the salaried employee” He works a ninety-hour week while making $40,000 per year. Because he does not log his hours, it is assumed that he is not entitled to overtime pay and is therefore without recourse when the boss forces him to work double the hours of the ordinary forty-hour week.

The assumption, it seems, was wrong. Kinda.

In Defense of Class Actions and Lawyers: They Are Not 'The Devil'

Does anyone else remember the mother from "The Waterboy"? Anything she disliked or was unfamiliar with was "the devil". Girls are the devil. Football is the devil. Ben Franklin was the devil. For many people, class action lawsuits and the lawyers that file them are "the devil."

It's easy to feel that way. Most of us have seen the commercials in the middle of the night for vaginal mesh lawsuits or asbestos. Others have gotten a Notification of a Proposed Settlement, where the aggrieved customers are stuck with $5 in gift certificates while the attorneys make millions in fees. And abuses do happen.

A Roundup of Equal Pay Articles, Plus the Lilly Ledbetter Act

Earlier this week, we heard President Barack Obama debate domestic and foreign issues against Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts in the second of three debates leading up to November’s election. One of the hottest issues of the debate was equal pay. President Obama highlighted his efforts to push the Lilly Ledbetter Act through Congress and Romney highlighted his “binders full of women” and his own record of hiring women in his administration as Governor.

The debate sparked a lot of discussion, and jokes, in the days following the debate. Many seized upon the “binders” quote and turned it into a joke, though it was not quite as hilarious as the uproar over Big Bird. More important than the humor, however, is the issue of gender equality in the workplace. We’d like to highlight a few recent developments in that regard.

Need a Job? Seasonal Hiring Starts NOW!

Happy Holiday hiring season! Seasonal hiring is expected to increase once again over last year’s numbers, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. The National Retail Federation projects approximately 626,000 seasonal positions will be added this year. For a little perspective, in 2008, only 263,800 seasonal workers were added.

According to the Sun-Times, Toys R Us will be adding 45,000 jobs nationally, Kohl’s will be adding an average of 41 employees per store, and Macy’s plans on adding 80,000 positions, including 3,500 in Chicago. Target plans on adding 80,000 to 90,000.

Koch Bros: Political Mailers and Restrictive Social Media Policy

David H. Koch and Charles G. Koch are known to be quite conservative. Their donations to the GOP and Tea Party and their personal opinions are well-known at this point. However, recent actions undertaken by the brothers have created a bit of controversy about the role of a boss's political opinions at the workplace and the ability of employees' to speak freely online, reports In These Times.

Earlier this month, the brothers sent out an election packet to all of their 45,000 employees containing information on "approved candidates" and editorials written by the two gentlemen. Most prominent of their recommendations, of course, were the pro-Romney and anti-Obama editorials. Many have reported that the mailer also warned of the "consequences" of voting for non-approved candidates.

Told You So? Rahm Emanuel Plans to Close Surplus Schools?

You've heard the cliché: "I hate to say I told you so, but ..." That's crap. Everyone loves to say "I told you so." It's fun being right. It's even more fun rubbing everyone's nose in it. With that said, we won't say we told you so, both here and here.

When the Chicago Public Schools agreed to give a universal two percent raise before the teachers' strike, we asked, "where is this coming from?" The school district, city, and especially the state, all are running massive deficits. There is no money. When the Chicago Teachers Union was declared victorious in the strike last month, we again asked, "where is the money coming from?" The agreement called for hundreds of new teachers, longer school days, and pay raised for some of the highest paid teachers in the nation.

NLRB: Can You Be Fired For Trashing Boss on Facebook? Probably

Last month, we were asked, “Can I be fired for trashing the boss on social media?” The answer was a resounding maybe. Of course, no one likes a grey area. Since then, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), who had previously not addressed the issue extensively, came to a decision that finally brought a bit of clarity to the problem area of protected speech versus at will employment.

At will employees generally can be fired for any (legal) reason. So, isn’t it perfectly legal to terminate an employee that tweets zingers about the boss’ catering choices and other mishaps at work? A BMW salesman did exactly that, and was fired for it. He posted a picture on Facebook of hot dogs, chips, and water at a BMW event celebrating a new model, along with a sarcastic caption. On the same day, he posted a picture of a Land Rover that was driven up a hill, over a wall, and crashed into a pond. Both dealerships were owned by the same company.

Is the EEOC Watching? Federal Employment Law and Small Businesses

Who's watching you? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gets a lot of coverage on this blog, as they are the federal agency tasked with enforcing federal employment laws. The agency investigates discrimination claims and tries to mediate problems. If mediation fails, litigation happens.

These federal employment laws only apply to businesses larger than a certain size. Federal age discrimination laws only apply to businesses with at least 20 employees who worked at least 20 calendar weeks each in this year or last. If the alleged discrimination involves race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, disability, or genetic information, the laws apply to employers with more than 15 similarly-tenured employees.

South Loop Club Sued Over Sexual Harassment, Retaliation Claims

A popular South Loop bar, the South Loop Club, is set to square off against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over claims that it fostered a culture that enabled the sexual harassment of female employees by owners and management. If the employees complained about their supervisors' behavior, they were allegedly terminated or forced to quit. Others quit after their complaints failed to remedy hostile work conditions.

A hostile work environment in a sexual harassment context isn't simply a boss who dislikes you. Instead, there must be severe and pervasive conduct that a reasonable employee would find intimidating. The harassment must rise to a level that interferes with your ability to work.

Examples of inappropriate conduct include:

Oh, Oh, No O'Reilly! Auto Parts Store Sued by Disabled Ex-Manager

O'Reilly Automotive Stores found itself in court last week, after the EEOC filed its third of three major employment discrimination lawsuits on one fateful Friday. The lawsuit alleges that the O'Reilly Auto Parts store in Beloit, Wis., fired its manager after refusing him time off to deal with a medical impairment.

The facts, as alleged by the EEOC, portray what might be a textbook example of a reasonable accommodation request by an employee. Heath Craft, the former manager of the Beloit branch, was diagnosed with a seizure disorder in February 2011. When he requested a month's leave to deal with the disorder, the company not only denied the request, but fired him on March 31, 2011.

St. Alexius Medical Center Sued for Firing Disabled Greeter

The Chicago branch of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was busy last week. They announced three new lawsuits against local employers on Friday, including a disability discrimination case against St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates. The hospital allegedly failed to reasonably accommodate the needs of a cognitively disabled greeter, and instead fired the employee.

When it comes to disabled employees, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires an employer to make efforts in good faith to accommodate the employee's needs, if it does not create an undue hardship for the employer.

How does that play into this case?