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Employment Discrimination in Illinois

Web Admin - Thursday, April 30, 2015

employment discrimination in Illinois, Rolling Meadows employment lawyerEmployees are protected from employment discrimination through federal and state laws. While the federal protections are fairly extensive, Illinois state law provides even larger groups of people with protection. Understanding these laws will enable individuals to recognize if they have been discriminated against in relation to employment.

Protected Classes

Through numerous different laws, the federal government prohibits discrimination based on:

  1. 1. Race/Color;

  2. 2. National origin;

  3. 3. Religion;

  4. 4. Sex;

  5. 5. Disability;

  6. 6. Age (for people over 40);

  7. 7. Citizenship status; and

  8. 8. Genetic information

The federal laws provide the minimum protections afforded to individuals. Through its own laws, Illinois provides protection from discrimination based on:

  1. 1. Marital status;

  2. 2. Sexual orientation;

  3. 3. Military status;

  4. 4. Unfavorable military discharge;

  5. 5. Gender identity;

  6. 6. Arrest record; and

  7. 7. Lack of permanent mailing address or using the address of a shelter or social service provider.

The Illinois Department of Human Rights (Department) investigates employment discrimination filed against private employers, state or local government, unions, and employment agencies. A charge of employment discrimination must be filed within 180 days of the alleged discrimination in order to utilize the Department to investigate. Alternatively, an individual can file a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The Department will only investigate claims against companies with 15 or more employees, unless:

  1. 1. The charge alleges sexual harassment, retaliation, or physical or mental disability discrimination – in these circumstances only one employee subjects the employer to the anti-discrimination law;

  2. 2. The employer is a public contractor, which is defined as an employer who does business with Illinois or a unit of local government; or

  3. 3. The employer is a unit of state government.

Under the Illinois Human Rights Act, it is a civil rights violation for an “employer to refuse to hire, to segregate, or to act with respect to recruitment, hiring, promotion, renewal of employment, selection for training or apprenticeship, discharge, discipline, tenure or terms, privileges or conditions of employment on the basis of unlawful discrimination or citizenship status.” It is also unlawful for an employer to impose a restriction that has the effect of prohibiting an employee from using a language to communicate in situations unrelated to the employee’s duties.

Illinois law protects against discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or medical or common conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. Further, the employer must provide reasonable accommodations when requested by an employee for issues related to pregnancy or childbirth unless the employer can demonstrate that providing such accommodations would impose an undue hardship on the ordinary course of the employer’s business.

Can We Help You?

Employees in Illinois are provided with a great deal of protection from employment discrimination by both federal and state law. If you believe you have been discriminated against in relation to employment, you should speak with an experienced Illinois employment law attorney. Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC serves clients throughout the northwest suburbs, including Rolling Meadows, Barrington, and Arlington Heights. 

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

How Courts Determine Damages

Web Admin - Friday, February 27, 2015

personal injury damages, Schaumburg personal injury lawyerThe ultimate goal of personal injury law is to make injured victims whole again. In theory, the law would like to allow people who suffer injuries to collect full compensation for all of the physical, economic, and emotional harms that an accident imposes on them. Of course, there are practical difficulties with doing this, such as accurately measuring emotional harms. Still, the fact that full compensation is the goal of the law is helpful for people's understanding of what damages are available to them in personal injury lawsuits.

What Damages Are Available

The law makes a wide variety of damages available to injured parties. Some of the most straightforward ones to understand are special compensatory damages. These are damages related to specific, easily calculated harms that a person suffered as a result of an accident. For instance, in a case arising out of a car accident, a person could receive special compensatory damages from the person who caused the accident to cover their medical bills and the repair bills for their car. The damages can also work based on prospective harms. For instance, if a victim can prove that their injuries prevented them from returning to work or lowered their ability to earn money, then they can also recover for those sorts of losses.

Courts can also award victims general compensatory damages. Rather than being tied to specific, calculable harms, general compensatory damages are supposed to compensate victims for the emotional harms that they suffer. Theoretically, these damages should be related to a person's pain and suffering, but as a practical matter they tend to be related to the special compensatory damages that a jury awards.

Additionally, courts have the option of awarding punitive damages. These damages are a special class of damages that are only given out rarely. Rather than the other types of damages, which focus on ensuring that victims are paid back for the harm they suffered, punitive damages exist to punish the defendant. The idea is that courts may impose these extra damages to punish defendants for particularly heinous conduct.

Comparative Negligence

Once the court calculates the full amount of the damages, there is another step. The court must determine whether the injured victim was at all responsible for the harms that they suffered. Illinois law reduces the amount of money a victim can recover by the amount of responsibility that they bear for the accident. For instance, if a pedestrian is crossing against a light and gets struck by a drunk driver, the court may find them responsible for some amount of their own injuries. Suppose the court decides that the pedestrian was responsible for 10 percent of their harm; here they can only recover 90 percent of their total damages.

Traffic accidents can lead to life changing injuries. Fortunately, the law gives people options for how to handle these situations. If you were injured in a traffic accident and want to learn more about your rights, contact an Illinois personal injury attorney today. Our firm represents victims in many northwest suburban towns, including Schaumburg, Inverness, and Barrington.

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

Rauner Introduces Right to Work Order

Web Admin - Monday, February 23, 2015

Illinois right to work order, Palatine employment law attorneyBefore being elected governor, Gov. Rauner worked in the private sector, and as a result one of the major focuses of his campaign was making the state's economic climate friendlier to businesses. Although he is proposing a variety of changes such as workers' compensation reform that would likely need the approval of the legislature, he has just taken a small step with a recent executive order. The executive order essentially institutes a version of right to work laws for public sector employees, and some commentators think it may be the governor testing the waters for introducing a more general right to work law.

Right to Work Generally

The purpose of right to work laws is to allow workers to choose whether they want to participate in a union. Currently, workers in companies where they would be represented by unions are allowed not to participate in the union, but they still have union dues deducted from their paychecks. From one angle this makes sense, since even non-union workers get the benefits of the union's existence, such as higher wages and better benefits. Forced collection of union dues prevents people from free-riding on the work of other people who pay for and participate in the union. However, there are many employees for whom the union dues represent a significant cost. Public sector employees who would be affected by the governor's order have hundreds of dollars a year taken from their pay for unions. Right to work lets the employees put that money towards the things that they think are most important.

Rauner's Executive Order

For most people, Governor Rauner's executive order does not change anything. It only implements right to work rules for the public sector employees represented by unions. Workers in the private sector will still be required to pay union dues if they were before. Additionally, the new order is being challenged in the courts as an over-extension of the governor's executive authority. The court has put a stay on the enforcement of the order until its constitutionality is decided.

Although the order does not directly affect most employees, it may be a sign of where the governor may be making changes in the future. In the past, right to work laws have not been a major issue in Illinois because, of the surrounding states, only Iowa had one. However, other states in the area have already passed or are moving to pass right to work legislation. These states include Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, and Missouri. This may lead to a stronger push for private sector right to work legislation in Illinois in an effort to prevent businesses from crossing borders into neighboring states.

The field of employment law is constantly changing. If you are worried about whether your business is in compliance with it or you think your rights as an employee are being violated, contact an Illinois employment law attorney today. Our firm serves clients across the northwest suburbs, including in Palatine, Barrington, and Inverness.

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

Payment for Unauthorized Overtime

Web Admin - Friday, September 19, 2014

payment for unauthorized overtime, Palatine employment law attorneyThe law related to wage and hour violations is a complex legal area that touches virtually every employee. These laws lay out employees' rights with regard to things like when they may be paid, how much they must be paid, and the various overtime rules. The overtime rules are some of the most difficult, and can often lead to violations by employers, either knowingly or simply by virtue of not understanding their full complexity. Regardless of the reason for the violation, employees should be aware of their legal rights so that they can enforce them in case something goes wrong.

One of the most common issues that arises with overtime is the idea of “unauthorized overtime.” Many companies have a policy in place that requires employees to get supervisor permission before they work overtime, because overtime switches them to an increased hourly salary. However, this policy can cause confusion when an employee works unauthorized overtime. Some companies refuse to pay workers extra for unauthorized overtime work, but that refusal is a violation of federal law.

The Fair Labor Standards Act

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the major piece of federal legislation governing things like overtime pay and wage and hour violations. For the purposes of the question about unauthorized overtime, the important section is 203(g), which defines the word employ. A company employs someone when it “suffer[s] or permit[s]” the person to work. Such a broad definition of the word employ means that even if the company has not authorized the overtime hours, they are still allowing the overtime work to happen. The fact that they allowed it at all means that the employee must be paid properly for their time, regardless of any company policy. However, employers are still allowed to take certain steps related to authorizing overtime.

What Employers May Do

Just because employers must pay their workers for unauthorized overtime does not mean that they are not allowed to have a system for approving overtime beforehand. Companies are allowed to decide whether they want their employees working extra time or would rather simply have the project completed at a later date. In fact, companies are even allowed to institute disciplinary procedures related to working overtime without the proper authorization. Yet, even with such procedures in place, if the employee still works overtime, they must be paid accordingly, even if they are also disciplined for violating the company policy related to unauthorized overtime.

Employees who have been the victim of wage and hour violations often feel powerless to stand up to their employers. If you believe that you are owed extra overtime pay, contact a skilled Illinois employment lawyer today. Our dedicated team can help provide you with the backup you need to enforce your legal rights as an employee. We assist clients in Palatine, Des Plaines, Buffalo Grove, and those throughout the suburban Chicagoland area.

About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

Overtime Violations in Restaurants

Web Admin - Tuesday, May 27, 2014

illinois overtime violationsWage theft is an increasingly common practice in which employers deprive their workers of wages they are owed through practices like improperly logging their hours or simply failing to pay wages fully and promptly. The problem is serious enough that a report from the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago estimates that workers in Cook County lose more than one million dollars a day to the practice. One of the most common methods of wage theft is through the violation of overtime laws. Overtime in the restaurant industry is a particular problem because of how overtime rules interact with minimum wage provisions and the tip credit.

Understanding the Tip Credit

The tip credit is a specific exception to minimum wage law that allows employers to pay employees less than minimum wage on the assumption that the worker’s tips will make up the difference. Restaurants are one of the main industries that can take advantage of the tip credit because of their high percentage of tipped employees, such as servers and bartenders.

The exact amount of the tip credit varies by state. In Illinois, employers may deduct up to 40 percent of the Illinois minimum wage as tip credit, giving a new minimum wage of $4.95. The tip credit is a complex piece of the minimum wage law that can give rise to a variety of violations by employers. One of the most complicated of these issues related to the tip credit is how it interacts with overtime law.

The Tip Credit and Overtime

Generally speaking, overtime laws require employers to pay their workers one and a half times their hourly wage for working more than 40 hours in a week. However, restaurants and other employers can still take advantage of the tip credit. Unfortunately, many do so incorrectly. The issue is that many employers take the tip credit out before multiplying the hourly wage by one and a half, when they should take it out after. To illustrate the difference, suppose a server works 60 hours in one week and is paid $4.95 an hour plus tips.

For the first 40 hours, the employer can simply pay the $4.95, but for the last 20 they need to start paying overtime. The incorrect way to do the calculation would be to simply multiply the $4.95 wage by 1.5 giving a new wage of $7.43, which would result in a paycheck of $148.60 for those 20 hours. The proper way to perform the calculation is to multiply the full minimum wage, $8.25, by 1.5 to get $12.38, and then subtract the tip credit afterwards to get a minimum wage of $9.08 and a paycheck of $181.60, a serious difference from the incorrect calculation.

If you believe you have been the victim of an overtime violation, contact an Illinois employment lawyer today. Our firm helps clients in many towns across the northwest suburbs, including in Palatine, Barrington, and Schaumburg.

About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

Employers Offering "Comp" Time Instead of Overtime

Web Admin - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

illinois overtime employee lawyerMany employees are owed overtime by their employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) once they work more than 40 hours in a week. Illinois also has a separate wage and hour law that comes into effect at the same 40-hour mark. While many employers dutifully obey these laws and pay the qualifying employees time-and-a-half during overtime, sometimes, either intentionally or by mistake, employers subvert these laws. One of the most common ways that employers attempt to get around paying overtime is through the use of compensatory or "comp" time instead of overtime.

This practice involves employers allowing a worker to take paid hours off in the future based on the amount of overtime hours worked. Most commonly these hours off will be either equal to the amount of overtime, or an hour and a half off for each hour of overtime.

Who Is Entitled to Overtime?

The first step in determining whether an employer is violating wage and hour laws related to overtime is to find out if the law mandates overtime for the employee in question. The first place to look is in the FLSA, which governs overtime requirements on a federal level. The FLSA qualifies all hourly employees for overtime pay, unless they fall into a list of exemptions. The Department of Labor provides a full list of exempt employees. Some of the most commonly applicable exemptions are:

  • - Sales employees working on commission;
  • - Computer professionals making at least $23.67 an hour;
  • - Drivers, loaders, and mechanics employed by motor carriers;
  • - Salesmen, partsmen, and mechanics who work for automobile dealerships; and
  • - Executive, administrative, and professional employees who are paid on a salaried basis.

Illinois’ wage and hour law also contains a list of exemptions, though these largely overlap with the FLSA’s list. For an employee to be exempt from overtime requirements, their occupation would need to be exempted from both the FLSA and the Illinois overtime law.

Is Comp Time Legal?

If a private sector employee falls under the ambit of overtime laws, then paying them with compensatory time instead of an overtime rate violates overtime laws. The purpose of those laws is to provide employees a premium for working overtime, which comp time circumvents. Importantly, this rationale does not apply to all rearrangements of schedules. The overtime laws focus on a weekly time scale, meaning that working more than eight hours in a day does not qualify a person for overtime, and an employer is allowed to shift time within the week to keep an employee below the 40 hour threshold. It is only the banking of paid time off in lieu of an overtime premium that violates the law.

If you believe you have been the victim of an overtime violation like comp time, reach out to a Barrington employment lawyer today. Our team handles cases in many northwest suburbs, including Schaumburg, Rolling Meadows, and Palatine.

About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

Retaliatory Discharge in Illinois: The Basics

Web Admin - Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Under the “at will” employment doctrine, employers are typically able to fire an employee for virtually any reason. There are some exceptions, however, including statutory rules which prevent employment discrimination against certain protected classes. Another exception is known as a “retaliatory discharge.”

What It Is

Essentially, the law, as outlined by the Illinois Supreme Court, allows an employee to recover damages if they show that they were fired from a job for engaging in legally protected conduct and that their termination violated public policy interests. A 1978 Supreme Court case, Kelsay v. Motorola, Inc. was the first in the state to define this tort.

Historically, there are two general types of situations where employees have won retaliatory discharge cases. The first is where an employee was fired for making a worker’s compensation claim.  To prevail in these situations, the burden is on the employee to affirmatively show that the termination was spurred by their seeking worker’s compensation.

In addition, employers can be liable for a retaliatory discharge when they fire an employee for reporting on improper conduct or refusing to participate in that conduct. For example, in one Illinois case, Palmateer v. International Harvester, an employee was fired after going to the police to share information about a fellow employee’s illegal actions. In another case decided by an Illinois appellate court, an employee won a claim after being fired for refusing to falsify pension plans--which itself violated federal law.

Retaliatory Discharge Damages

To pursue one of these cases, an employee must file a civil lawsuit specifically alleging that they were terminated in violation of these rules. But what sort of damages can the employee recover if they win?

Under Illinois case law, employees who win a retaliatory discharge case are generally able to recover lost wages from the date that the termination occurred until they find a new job. However, that does not mean that the employee can simply do nothing and collect a paycheck. Instead, courts have ruled that the employee has a duty to mitigate their damages by taking reasonable steps to find permanent work.

In addition, depending on the specifics of the case, a plaintiff may also seek punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish the conduct of the employer (instead of merely compensating the harmed party). These damages are only a possibility when the defendant’s conduct is particularly egregious. 

Legal Help

If you have questions about a potential retaliatory discharge case, contact a Palatine employment lawyer today. Call 847-934-6000 to speak to a member of our team. We serve many Northwest Suburban areas including Rolling Meadows, Buffalo Grove, Barrington, and other nearby communities.


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