Articles Posted in Employment Law

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President Barack Obama during his tenure had enacted protections by law to find that“sexual orientation is inherently a ‘sex-based consideration.’”  The current President Trump was determined to change that and the issue was brought up before the courts in a  landmark civil rights case which bars employers from discriminating against their workers based on sexual orientation.

President Trump had intervened in a discrimination lawsuit filed by a sky-diving instructor and argued that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act did not explicitly cover sexual-orientation discrimination in the workplace.  This is despite the separation of powers doctrine that is in place and was, therefore,  a stance that put it at odds with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected the notion that sexual-orientation discrimination was not covered in the Civil Rights Act.  It was determined that  “race, color, religion, sex or national origin,” should also be extended to include sexual orientation. An appellate court in Atlanta has ruled the opposite.

The issue is still largely a political one as the ruling could create a scenario in which the issue of gay rights at work will be decided by a Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court nomination choice of Justice is Neil M. Gorsuch and so has the weight and bearing of Trump attached.

For now, the private party that lost the case has not decided whether the Supreme Court will decide the case or not, in a review of the decision.  Continue reading

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Shortly after a gender discrimination lawsuit was filed against Point72, Steven Cohen’s private investment firm that he set up to manage his personal wealth, Douglas Haynes resigned as the firm’s president.

The lawsuit named Point72, Haynes, and Cohen as defendants in the lawsuit. Although the complaint did not accuse Cohen of misconduct, it did hold him responsible for what it alleges is a culture that promotes demeaning and underpaying female employees of the firm.

Haynes is specifically called out in the complaint about allegedly demeaning women. According to the lawsuit, Haynes allegedly called one of the women working for him a “dumb blonde” and kept the word “pussy” written on a whiteboard in his office for several weeks. Women were allegedly required to attend meetings with Haynes, and other men, in his office with the explicit reference to their genitals on display.

The lawsuit further alleges that women were underrepresented at the executive level, with only one woman making it to portfolio manager alongside 124 men. Continue reading

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It is unsurprising that under federal law, military servicemembers have the right to resume their civilian jobs when their service ends. But servicepeople also enjoy a right that most civilians don’t: The right to be placed not in the same position they held when their employment was interrupted, but the position they would have attained absent their military service.

This right underlies The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), which guarantees that an individual who leaves his job for military service cannot be denied any “benefit of employment” as a result of that service, and a recent ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Dale H. was a pilot for FedEx Express when he was called up for Air Force Reserve duty in February 2003, during the Gulf War.  Dale had piloted Boeing 727 aircraft, but just prior to his deployment had been selected for training as a first officer to fly MD-11 aircraft, at a higher pay grade.

Upon his return from service in late 2006, Dale resumed his FedEx job and successfully completed the MD-11 training, becoming an MD-11 First Officer in February 2007.

Several months before Dale returned to FedEx, the company and the pilots’ union had negotiated a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) whereby FedEx pilots than on “active pay status” would receive signing bonuses applicable to their pay grade, including employees on military leave.

Upon Dale’s return, he received the 727 pilot’s bonus of $7,400. He sued FedEx under USERRA, claiming he should have been paid the $17,700 bonus received by MD-11 pilots, which was denied him only as a result of his military service. Dale argued that but for his deployment, he would have completed his originally scheduled MD-11 training and been eligible for a signing bonus at that pay grade under the terms of the CBA. Continue reading

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Illinois has been navigating the idea of whether local communities should be able to choose whether to create their own right-to-work zones.  There has recently been the inquiry of jurisdictions and cases where employers and unions are prohibited from entering into agreements that require workers to either join a union or pay related fees.  As of late, these ideas have been pushed for in Illinois. Weakening the middle class and the weakening of labor unions is also a concern for those that fall into that category.

Right to work zones are said to be better for business.  Nearby state Indiana may be getting more jobs and the corporations there are appearing to be becoming richer.  The Senate Bill 1905 would have added protection for workers in Illinois by stopping cities from creating right-to-work zones.  Law in Illinois is superseded by the National Labor Relations Act. The federal law is clear: the states have the right to enact or reject right to work laws — municipalities don’t.

It is believed that Illinois will be better positioned to be competitive nationally and globally and create an opportunity for all the people of our state. Through freedom to decide how reforms make its economy stronger, will help business grow. The ability to empower workers by choosing a union at their discretion is also important, as unions have a place in our society and serve the middle class.  After all, it is unions that set pay standards and help to maintain the safety, as well as, working conditions of employees. Continue reading

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Consider this dilemma: You work in a low-paying job for a check-cashing service and you want to quit your job and change employers. What are your practical options outside of applying for opportunities at similar establishments? A recent lawsuit against an Illinois employer addresses this issue.

An Illinois payday lender has been sued by the state attorney general for forcing its low-wage employees to sign overly restrictive, unlawful non-compete agreements. According to the complaint filed October 25 in Cook County Circuit Court, Check Into Cash of Illinois, LLC requires customer service employees at all its 33 Illinois locations, including those earning less than $13 per hour, to sign a non-compete agreement as a condition of employment, in violation of the state Freedom to Work Act and Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act.

The noncompetes prohibit Check Into Cash employees from working “directly or indirectly” for any other business that provides consumer lending services or products for one year after they leave the company. These include any paycheck advance services, check-cashing services, pawn services, credit lending services, or any other money transmission service. The geographic territory off limits to former employees consists of businesses within 15 miles of any Check Into Cash location, not only in Illinois but in 32 other states where the parent company operates retail stores. Continue reading

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The #MeToo scandals has generated more work for lawyers. Last year, within New York sex scandals were shaking elite preparatory schools with an uptick in investigations.  One unidentified school had spent at least $2 million on a comprehensive report detailing decades of sexual indiscretions between faculty members and students.  This year, we saw reflections of harassment and abuse within the entertainment and political environments. It has had a momentum effect and impacted many with more and more cases being reported everyday.

No one is ever free from abuse of harassment and people are more vocal and aware of the abuse nowadays, as this hashtag has been trending on social media.  Investigation, litigation and handling of sexual allegations are not easy to navigate and are emotionally taxing, whilst damaging to reputation of either victim or alleged perpetrator.  One incident and its exposure often leads to others coming forward and class actions or multiple investigations.  Reputation, character and conduct is important.  Once an image is tarnished, it can be life affecting in so many ways.  A cycle of resistance or denial can also exist in the cycle.  Having insurance coverage in such instances helps relieve the emotional distress in finance over monies paid to victims or an insurance dispute over clauses and coverage can also arise.  As more and more claims come out, it must be realized that one cannot be fully absolved of such allegations and the need to have measures in place in case is important.  Prevention is always better than cure and whether or not employers wish to screen such conduct as part of their background check is also becoming a possible concern.  The costs of such suits can be steep and the damage that is done can never be monetized.  The possibility of employers screening behavior in an interview position for work purposes may also become more commonplace, as costs and money talks.  It is not worth the baggage of having such persons within a working environment and maybe including contract clauses for relieving personal behavior whilst at work must be ensured within employment manuals.  More education is required as to why such behavior will not be tolerated.  Continue reading

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Fox news has recently come under fire for yet another sexual harassment lawsuit involving a political contributor who alleges she was forced into a sexual relationship with Charles Payne, a Fox Business anchor.

The lawsuit, filed by Scottie Nell Hughes, alleges she repeatedly refused Payne by telling him “stop” and “no,” but he allegedly disregarded her protests and forced her to stay in a sexual relationship with him for an extended period of time. Hughes alleges she received extra appearances on both Fox Business and Fox News while she remained in the relationship with Payne, but that when she cut things off, she was allegedly “blacklisted” by the media giant.

In addition, Hughes alleges that, after she brought her concerns over the sexual assault to Fox in confidence, the media company allegedly leaked her name to the press, along with a “statement” in which Payne apologized for the affair. Hughes and her attorney object to both the manner in which Fox handled the situation and Payne’s use of the term, “affair,” which implies she consented.

Payne was suspended from the network, pending an internal investigation into Hughes’s allegations, but has since returned to work.

Hughes has said that the complaint her attorney recently filed speaks for itself, and that she is pursuing litigation so that no other woman will have to suffer through the hell she says she is now experiencing. Continue reading

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At least one Trump supporter is, not only well aware of the issues that face minorities in this country, but is actively fighting to support those minorities.

His target? Fox News.

Because Fox News has been such a strong supporter of Trump, you’d think an attorney who donated $40,000 to Trump’s campaign and voted for him in both the primary and general elections would also support Fox News, but that’s not the case for attorney Douglas Wigdor.

Wigdor started filing lawsuits against Fox News late last year after a reporter for Fox 5, Lidija Ujkic, sought him out after having heard about a case he had settled in which he had argued on behalf of a woman who claimed her pregnancy had led to her demotion at Goldman Sachs. Ujkic’s claims against Fox were similar.

Wigdor took Ujkic’s case, and a few months later, took on another, this time alleging racial bias. Eleven new plaintiffs ended up joining that case in the following month, including Kelly Wright, the only black man to work as a news anchor on the conservative news channel.

That apparently opened the floodgates, as Wigdor followed it up by suing the media giant two more times that month, three times the following month, once in July, once in August and again in September. Continue reading

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The world of big-money executive bonuses is one that most of us can only dream of, but it was the subject of a recent opinion by the Illinois Appellate Court. The First District held that under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, ABN Amro Inc. could not deny a former executive a $2-million bonus simply because he had no written compensation agreement. (Robert D. Schultze v. ABN Amro, Inc., 2017 IL App (1st) 162140)

Robert S. had held various executive positions with ABN subsidiary LaSalle Bank since 1983. He earned his salary and bonuses under an oral employment agreement. If Robert and his team met certain performance goals, he could expect to receive a multiple of his salary as a bonus.

In 2007, ABN promoted Robert to managing director and chief operating officer of Global Markets North America Division. He was then asked to manage the $21-billion sale of LaSalle to Bank of America and the $93-billion sale of ABN to Royal Bank of Scotland and two other banks, as executive lead of the ABN North America Transition Leadership Team.

Based on the bonuses paid to his predecessors in the COO job combined with his significant added responsibilities, he expected a bonus of $2-$5 million for 2008. When he learned in March 2009 that his 2008 bonus was only $200,000, he objected as the amount was not in proportion to the responsibilities he had assumed, and was much lower than his recent annual bonuses. Continue reading

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State and federal civil rights laws prohibit employment discrimination and discrimination in places of public accommodation for reasons of race, color, national origin/ancestry, sex/gender, religion/creed and disability (physical and mental). For such reasons, businesses have a responsibility to treat all customers equally under the law and are better served when they do so.

For instance, it was in a Nail Salon that a discrimination or miscommunication became a dispute which almost could have become a lawsuit had an apology not been issued.  A person with disability who uses a wheelchair felt as though she had been discriminated against. The Vietnamese-Americans who worked at the Nail Lounge say a language barrier contributed to the dispute.

When the disparate treatment was felt, the customer immediately proceeded to make a Facebook post indicating that a salon refused to provide a full pedicure service because she was in a wheelchair.  The customer told staff she would seek business elsewhere and voiced her opinion sensing that it was her wheelchair presence that was the problem and they did not want to deal with it.  The salon technician asserted that accommodation for wheelchairs had been made in the past and the Business was an ‘open space’ for such reasons.  The service was not intended to disrespect but arose out of a lack of proper communication.  Not having perfect English was part of the reason and is said to have contributed to the incident. No ill intention was in place, as such.  Nonetheless, the lady in the wheelchair said she was ignored by the technician and brought along a friend to help with lifting her out of her wheelchair.   The technician instead asked if the pedicure could be given while she sat in her wheelchair. In doing so, the business wanted to avoid any potential liability that could result from moving from her wheelchair into a pedicure chair and make the situation comfortable.  See this article. Better use of tact could have avoided this situation and not every business is perfect or prepared. Raising awareness such as this is what happened as a result,no ill was intended.  Continue reading