The Chicago Employment Law Blog

November 2012 Archives

Price is Wrong in Game Show Pregnancy Discrimination Verdict

We get the feeling that this verdict might be reduced on appeal.

Former Price is Right model Brandi Cochran, 41, sued the show after she was allegedly harassed and discriminated against for being pregnant. While pregnant with twins, she was referred to as a "wide load." She later was not allowed to return to her job after taking leave for complications with her pregnancy. The jury, after many days of deadlock, eventually awarded her over $8 million in damages.

Supreme Court: Who Is a Supervisor for Harassment Liability?

When it comes to harassment in the workplace, the rule is generally that if a supervisor is the harasser, the employer is liable. If a fellow employee is the harasser, the employer is only liable if they were negligent in allowing the conduct to occur.

The question is, what defines a supervisor?

It may seem like an easy question. Their duties are managerial. They are "in charge." But what if they have no power to hire, fire, or make employment decisions, other than overseeing their coworker's duties?

Reprieve for Local Hostess Workers? Judge Orders Mediation

Just when you thought they were out, the judge pulled them back in! Late last week, Hostess Brands, Inc. declared its intention to shutter its factories and sell off its assets after negotiations with the union failed and a strike "crippled" the company. The announcement set off a panic for Twinkie-lovers and heartache for hundreds of local workers, who were set to be laid off from their jobs with the struggling snack maker.

Two days after the doors to the factory were closed, and every retailer in America sold out of Twinkies, HoHos, and Ding Dongs, hope emerged in the form of ordered mediation, reports Reuters. Judge Robert Drain, who is overseeing the bankruptcy proceedings, questioned why the mediation had not yet occurred and asked the parties whether it might help.

End of the Line for Hostess Means Holiday Layoffs for Local Workers

Lost in the din of mourning over Twinkies, HoHos, and Ding Dongs is the news that the end of Hostess means the end of 18,500 jobs. In Schiller Park, Hostess employs 300 workers. In Hodgkins, another 325 workers will lose their jobs. There's also a plant in Peoria that will face closure.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Schiller Park and Hodgkins plants ran their last production runs this morning. The two plants are now closed, less than a week before Thanksgiving.

Food Trucks, Finally Allowed in Chicago, Want More

Anyone remember the old adage, "give a mouse a cookie and he'll want some milk." Okay, so it's less of an adage than a children's book, but it's wise nonetheless.

This past summer, Chicago finally caught up to most other major metropolitan areas and allowed food trucks to prepare food ... in the trucks. Previously, food trucks could only serve prepackaged food that was prepared elsewhere. The Windy City's epicurious folk rejoiced while entrepreneurial types began plans to revolutionize the pallets of the populace.

Preparing for Obamacare: Mandates, Penalties, and Exchanges

Like it or not, President Obama will remain in office for another four years. A more cynical individual might proclaim, "Republican, Democrat, Obama, Romney, it makes no difference. They're all crooks." Where it will make a difference, however, is in regards to the Affordable Care Act.

Governor Romney declared his intention to repeal most of the Obamacare legislation if he was elected. He lost. This means employers and employees need to prepare for the massive changes to healthcare coverage that will begin in 2014.

More Discrimination Litigation For Chicago Fire Department

Shortly after the city received the news of a $78.4 million tab for discriminating against African American firefighter candidates in 1995, and shortly before 111 of those candidates, hired over a decade later, graduated and became Chicago Firefighters, another lawsuit against the Chicago Fire Department was filed. This lawsuit also alleges discrimination, though this time the claims allege unfair hiring practices that affect women, reports the Sun-Times.

Like every fire department, Chicago uses a physical abilities test to ensure that the firefighting candidates can carry a hose up a flight of stairs, or drag an obese man out of his bathtub. The lawsuit filed on October 26 claims that the test does not reflect the skills needed to succeed as a firefighter and instead unfairly screens out female candidates.

Forest Pharm Gender Discrimination Lawsuit Expands to IL

The $100 million lawsuit started with the claims of four Pennsylvania women. Each claimed that they were paid less than their male counterparts. Some claimed that discrimination occurred after having a child or taking maternity leave. One claimed good old fashioned sexual harassment. The claims of these four women, filed in July, were joined on Monday by the claims of women in California, Kentucky, and of course, Illinois, reports Workforce.com.

Though we don't have specifics on the new allegations, we have plenty of information on the original lawsuit, thanks to Pharmalot. One of the original plaintiffs received a lower evaluation and pay increase than previous years after she took maternity leave. Another was denied a promotion while she was pregnant and also received a lower pay raise than previous years after the pregnancy.

Des Moines Lawsuit Reminds Us How Not to Deal With Discrimination

Copa Burse has been through hell over the past couple of years. Her coworkers have reportedly harassed her continuously. Back in 2011, someone hung a blackface doll from her garage door, accompanied by a racial slur and a message warning her to quit her job at John Deere "or else", reports the Hinterland Gazette. The latter incident happened five days after company officials distributed a memo indicating that Burse would be suing the company for harassment.

She didn't sue the company before the vandalism to her home. She didn't sue the company after, either. She is suing now. Since her complaint to her superiors, the memo, and the vandalism, she has been demoted, replaced by a white worker, and faced additional harassment, as have other black employees, reports the Associated Press.

Walmart Faces More Labor Unrest, Lawsuits

Walmart will once again find itself in court over labor violation accusations, reports CBS Chicago. This time, the violations involve alleged mistreatment of temporary workers in the Chicago area. The lawsuit claims that Walmart, and two temporary staffing companies, violated federal minimum wage and overtime laws by forcing workers to arrive early, stay late, and work through breaks with no extra compensation.

There are also allegations that Walmart failed to maintain accurate records of the hours worked by the employees and failed to pay workers for a minimum of four hours when they were called in but were not utilized for four hours. Illinois law requires that workers be paid for a minimum of four hours.

CTU, CPS, Head to Court Over Closed Pension 'Loophole'

Something miraculous happened in Illinois this year. A bipartisan effort to cut spending and close a pension loophole passed! Members of opposing political parties worked together to cut spending and address the pension crisis that threatens to cripple the budgets of CPS, Chicago, and even the state itself.

The loophole-closing law addressed the issue of double-dipping and six-figure pensions that were awarded to CPS workers that took leave from the district in order to work for the Chicago Teachers' Union. The law affected both union leaders and lower-level union employees, reports the Chicago Tribune.