My Employer is Discriminating Against Me for Taking Time Off Under the FMLA

Web Admin - Friday, May 06, 2016

employer discrimination, taking FMLA, Illinois Employment Law AttorneyMost workers have a federally protected right under the Family And Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to take up to 12 weeks off from work, unpaid, to care for themselves or a close family member who is sick or injured. Additionally, workers do not have to fear losing their job or being discriminated against or retaliated against. 

If you believe that you are an employee who is eligible for FMLA protection, but are worried that your employer has unlawfully violated your FMLA rights, you should consult with an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible.

Examples of When a Person Can Take Time Off Under the FMLA

There are several instances when a worker can take unpaid leave from his or her job under the FMLA. Examples include:

- When a worker is ill, injured, or has a serious medical condition;

- When a worker needs to provide care for his or her spouse, child, or parent who has a serious medical condition or illness;

- When a worker is incapacitated due to pregnancy;

- When a worker needs prenatal care before a child birth;

- Child birth;

- When a worker needs to provide care to his or her newborn child; or

- A worker is pacing a child up for adoption or into foster care. 

How Do Workers Use FMLA Leave?

When a worker has notice ahead of time that he or she will need to take time off from work under the FMLA, he or she must provide his or her employer with 30 days of notice if possible. When advanced notice is not possible, or the need to take time under the FMLA is sudden and unplanned, workers need to provide notice as soon as possible. Works must follow their employer’s normal policies concerning taking leave. 

Employers Must Respect Your FMLA RIghts

If you are a worker who is eligible for FMLA protection, then your employer must comply with the law and allow you to take the qualifying time that you need. Employers are not permitted to interfere with your rights under the FMLA, nor can an employer restrain you or deny you your FMLA rights. Your employer is also prohibited from discharging you, or discriminating against you, for exercising your rights under the FMLA. 

Discrimination could take the form of:

- Treating you differently after you took FMLA time off;

- Denying you promotions or certain work projects or assignments;

-Giving you a bad review for no good reason other than that you took time off under the FMLA; and/or

- Deeming you ineligible for promotions or bonuses because you took time off under the FMLA. 

No one who is eligible for FMLA protections should be denied his or her rights by his or her employer. If you believe that your employer has improperly taken action against you or has discriminated against you for taking unpaid leave under the FMLA, you should consult with an Illinois employment law attorney today. 

Our law firm serves the communities of Crystal Lake, Des Plaines, Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg, Palatine, Buffalo Grove, Barrington, Inverness, and Deer Park. Please call 847-934-6000 to speak to a member of our team.

    Ken Apicella

    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.


Severance Agreements

Web Admin - Tuesday, January 12, 2016

severance agreements, Illinois employment law attorneyIndividuals who are facing termination from employment may be offered a severance package. The terms of this package are contained within a severance agreement. Employees facing termination should pay careful attention to the terms placed within the agreement and be sure that they understand what the terms mean before signing. 

Provisions in Severance Agreements

Severance agreements are important to employers and employees. For employers, they provide protection against the employee filing a lawsuit against the employer in the future. For employees, the agreement describes what payment and benefits they will receive. Additionally, provisions can be included to protect against what will be said to future prospective employers about the reasons for the termination. The following are several of the most common issues that are addressed in severance agreements: 

- Severance Pay: Payment for the termination is usually offered in some term of weeks (for example, five weeks of pay). It is common for the offer to be based on the length of employment, such as one week of pay for each year of employment.

- Vacation Pay: Employees are entitled to payment for earned, but unused vacation time.

- Non-compete Agreement: If the employer and employee entered into a non-compete agreement, the employer should provide a copy of it to the employee and remind him or her of the terms and conditions. Additionally, changes to the non-compete can be made during severance negotiations and placed in the agreement.

- Returning Equipment: A discussion of what happens to any property of the employer (such as a company phone, laptop, or keycards) that is in the possession of the employee should be included in the agreement. This provision should explain how and by what date the property must be returned.

- Future Jobs: For the terminated employee, it is likely that he or she will be searching for a new job. In that case, it is important for the employee and his or her former employer to agree on how the employer will communicate with prospective employers. If the employee and employer give different reasons for the termination, it can be detrimental in the search for a new job. Additionally, the parties may enter into a non-disparagement clause, which states that neither of them will make disparaging remarks about the other to third parties. A non-disparagement clause should specifically define what cannot be said.

- Claims Waived: This is often the most important provision for employers. Under this provision, the employee relinquishes any right to file a lawsuit against the employer. It should define all of the types of claims and lawsuits that are barred.

- Employees Over 40 Years Old: These types of employees are protected by the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA). Workers 40 years of age and older must be given 21 days to review the severance agreement prior to signing it. Further, they have seven days after signing the agreement to change their mind and revoke it. 

Helping Employees 

If you are faced with a severance agreement negotiation, you should contact a skilled Illinois employment law attorney as soon as possible. Our team can help you understand the provisions in severance agreements, which can help you secure benefits and protect your rights. We proudly represent individuals the communities of Crystal Lake, Schaumburg, Palatine, Des Plaines, Rolling Meadows, Buffalo Grove, Barrington, Arlington Heights, Inverness, and Deer Park. We look forward to hearing from you. 

      Ken Apicella

      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.

Source: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/history/35th/thelaw/owbpa.html

Misclassification of Employees

Web Admin - Thursday, November 19, 2015

    misclassification of employees, Illinois employment law attorneyIndividuals who are performing work for a business entity are generally either classified as independent contractors or employees. The difference between the two classifications is important; being considered an employee entitles individuals to greater benefits than independent contractors receive. Unfortunately, whether intentionally or not, the misclassification of employees occurs, and can end up costing employees access to significant benefits. 

    Classifying Workers 

    An independent contractor provides a good or service while retaining control over how that good or service is provided or performed. Moreover, an independent contractor will often treat the entity that he or she provides the work for more like a customer or client, rather than an employer. Frequently, an independent contractor will be performing similar work for multiple entities. 

    If a person performing work is considered an independent contractor, the business entity can avoid providing the person with the benefits that employees are entitled to. Some of these benefits include workers’ compensation, overtime pay, insurance, minimum wage, and family or medical leave. By avoiding these benefits, the entity can enjoy significant cost savings, which can create a competitive advantage over similar businesses. However, this comes at the expense of the individuals the entity employs. 

    Under the Illinois Unemployment Insurance Act, a presumption of employment exists that must be rebutted by the entity in order to lawfully classify the individual performing work as an independent contractor. Specifically, an individual performing services for a business entity is considered an employee unless it is proven that:

    1. The individual is free from the entity’s control or direction over the performance of the work, both under the terms of the contract and in fact;

    2. The service provided is outside of the normal course of the business or is completely performed outside of all of the places of business of the entity; and

    3. The individual is part of an independently created trade, occupation, profession or business. 

    Under the Illinois Employee Classification Act, a construction worker is considered an independent contractor if the above test is met or if the worker is a sole proprietor or partnership. 

    Holding Employers Liable 

    The Illinois Department of Labor, as well as various other government agencies, is responsible for enforcing state laws that govern employee misclassification. Consequences for misclassifying employees as independent contractors include the assessment of interest on late or delinquent unemployment insurance trust contributions and financial penalties. An employer that does not obtain workers’ compensation insurance can be fined up to $500 for every day that it is non-compliant, with a minimum fine of $10,000. It is also possible for an individual to file a personal lawsuit against his or her employer to recover damages such as wages, back overtime pay, or other lost benefits. 

    If you believe that you have been misclassified as an independent contractor, it is important to contact an experienced Illinois employment law attorney as soon as possible. There are potentially significant benefits that you have been denied as a result of that misclassification. Our firm proudly helps individuals in communities throughout the northwest suburbs, including Crystal Lake, Schaumburg, Palatine, Des Plaines, Rolling Meadows, Deer Park, Inverness, Arlington Heights, Barrington, and Buffalo Grove. 

      Ken Apicella

      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.




    Changes to Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act Regulations

    Web Admin - Friday, February 06, 2015

    Illinois wage payment, Rolling Meadows employment lawyerLast year, the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) made a set of important changes to the regulations it uses to govern the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act. Although these changes are substantive and significant, relatively little has been publicized about the changes. Employers should take note of these new employment regulations to ensure that they are in compliance with the IDOL's new positions on various items, as they can have a serious impact on business operations. The new regulations make a variety of substantive changes, some of which are specific and mechanical, while others are broad and may represent new attitudes about enforcement at the IDOL.

    The Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act

    The Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act is a state statute that governs the way that employers are required to pay wages to their employees. These sorts of requirements include things like how often employers must pay their employees, how employers should handle final payments for terminated employees, and how to handle payments for striking workers. As with many laws, they are supported by a set of regulations. Unlike laws, regulations are promulgated by the administrative agencies that are tasked with enforcing the statute. Yet, like laws, regulations still have binding impact on employers, so it is important for employers to keep abreast of changes in the regulations.

    The Changed Regulations

    The IDOL recently changed the regulations that accompany the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act in a variety of different ways. These are just some of the more important changes.

    The new regulations include a sweeping definition of an “agreement” between employees and employers. It means “a manifestation of mutual assent on the part of two or more persons.” The definition goes on to discuss the fact that agreements are broader than contracts and things like employee handbooks and past practices can constitute agreements, even over express disclaimers in some circumstances. This means that employers may end up binding themselves to prior wage practices permanently.

    The new regulations also change certain notice and recordkeeping requirements. For instance, the regulations now require employers to provide written notice of a person's wage when they are hired and whenever that rate changes, to the extent possible. Additionally, employers must now keep records of the hours all employees work per week, regardless of whether any of the employees are actually subject to overtime requirements.

    These are just some of the changes that the IDOL recently made to the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act regulations. If you are concerned about your company's compliance or believe that your employer is violating your rights as an employee, contact an Illinois employment law attorney today. Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC serves many different clients across the northwest suburban area, including in towns like Rolling Meadows, Buffalo Grove, Arlington Heights, and Deer Park.

    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.

    Common Methods of Wage Theft

    Web Admin - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

    illinois wage theft lawyerMore and more employees are facing issues related to wage theft. Even though many are not aware of what the term actually mean, legal claims related to it have been steadily rising in recent years.

    Broadly speaking, wage theft happens when an employer illegally deprives an employee of wages that they are owed. In some cases that can mean subverting laws that guarantee certain benefits to employees, like the minimum wage law, while in others it can simply mean not abiding by the agreement between the employer and the employee, both of which are violations of the law. Wage theft can be broken down into two categories based on the method the employer uses, methods relating to simply depriving the worker of money they are owed, and methods relating to improperly documenting the worker or their pay.

    Wage Deprivation

    Wage deprivation methods involve improper payroll practices designed to deprive an employee of their pay. The simplest method of this is an employer’s failure to pay their employees on time. This can include tactics like withholding an employee’s last paycheck or paying them for only certain hours or days worked, rather than paying for all their time.

    One common, similar method of wage theft involves withholding overtime pay. Under the Fair Labor Standards act, many employees are entitled to overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week. Employers often take advantage of confusion among employees as to whether they qualify and refuse to pay overtime. Fortunately, the Department of Labor maintains a guide explaining worker’s overtime rights.

    Documentation Issues

    Documentation issues are a slightly subtler version of wage theft. Rather than simply withholding wages, employers will adjust their payroll or misclassify employees to stop paying them everything that the employer owes them. One of the simplest documentation violations is agreeing to pay someone below the minimum wage ($8.25 currently), which is illegal. Employers may also adopt improper policies related to clocking-in, like forcing employees to work for a period in the morning before they start logging hours. These sorts of policies qualify as wage theft since employers owe employees for that time.

    Additionally, employers could improperly classify their employees as independent contractors. Independent contractor is a specific legal status related to the amount of freedom a worker has to set their hours and perform tasks as they see fit. Most workers a business hires will not fall into this category, but an employer may try to label employees as this since it allows the employer to avoid things like workers compensation insurance and payroll tax by shifting the burden to the worker.

    If you believe you have been a victim of wage theft, or have questions about your employer’s practices, get in contact with an Illinois employment lawyer. We serve clients in areas across the northwest suburbs such as Buffalo Grove, Barrington, and Arlington Heights.

    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.

    Remedies for Unpaid Overtime in Illinois

    Web Admin - Thursday, February 06, 2014

    illinois unpaid overtime employment lawyerAmerican workers are facing a growing problem; their employers are failing to pay them overtime for extra hours that they worked. According to CNN, wage and hour claims have increased 400 percent in the last decade alone. Employers have a variety of tricks they can use to avoid paying employees the money they owe them. For instance, many employers improperly classify their workers as independent contractors, when they should actually be classified as employees.

    This allows employers to subvert overtime laws and shift some of their tax burden to the worker. Employers can also avoid paying overtime by instituting improper policies to prevent employees from logging all of their hours. This can include such practices as forcing employees to clock out for lunches through which they work, making employees show up for work and then wait to clock in until later, or forcing workers to work from home without tracking their hours.

    Fortunately, workers in Illinois have remedies available to them. Employees can bring suits for unpaid overtime under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and under the Illinois Minimum Wage law. However, employees should know that both laws provide different limits on the amounts that they can recover from their employer.

    The Fair Labor Standards Act

    The FLSA is a federal law that protects workers from wage violations. If an employee brings a suit under the FLSA to recover overtime, they can receive overtime pay that the employer owes them from the past two years. That time period may increase to three years if the employee can prove that their employer willfully violated the statute.

    A willful violation of the statute occurs if the employer “showed reckless disregard for the matter of whether their conduct violated the statute.” Additionally, in the case of such willful violations, the court may award “liquidated damages.” These extra damages can be as high as the initial amount of overtime owed, meaning the employee can receive twice the amount that the employer failed to pay them.

    The Illinois Minimum Wage Law

    Illinois also has a minimum wage law under which employees can sue in order to recover overtime pay. Employees can recover up to three years of back pay under this law, regardless of whether the employer willfully violated the law. However, suing under the Illinois law would deprive the employee of the opportunity to receive liquidated damages. Instead, the Illinois law provides for employees to receive two percent interest for each month that their employer owed them overtime.

    Do you have questions about your employer’s overtime practices, or think you may be eligible for overtime pay that you never received? Reach out to a Rolling Meadows employment lawyer today. Our firm operates in many northwest suburban areas including Barrington, Crystal Lake, 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.

    Rundown of the Illinois’ Sales Representative Act

    Web Admin - Friday, November 22, 2013

    Employers often pay their salespeople a commission, meaning that the salesperson collects a percentage of whatever they can sell. It is a way for employers to motivate their sellers, and it lets sellers see the benefits of their hard work. But, both employers and employees should note that Illinois passed a special employment law, the Sales Representative Act, to regulate how employers must pay these commissions.

    The Sales Representative Act applies to all commissions, which it defines as a compensation scheme based in whole or in part on a percentage either of the employee’s gross sales, or the net profits from those sales. The Act covers three main areas: when commissions come due to the employee; how employers should handle commissions owed to a terminated employee; and the penalties that can apply to employers if they fail to comply with the Act.

    As to when the employer must pay the commissions, the Act contains several scenarios. If the employee’s contract specifies a due date for the commission, then the Act allows that to control. However if the employee works without a contract, or if the contract does not specify a date, then the Act looks to the employer’s past practice of when they pay the employee, and then holds the employer to that schedule. If the employer only recently hired the salesperson, meaning there is no past practice, then the Act uses the standard practice of the salesperson’s industry to determine when the employer owes commissions.

    The Act also lays out specific requirements for paying commissions to terminated employees. If the employer owes any commissions to the employee at the time they let the employee go, then the employer must pay those commissions within thirteen days of the employee’s termination. If more commissions come due after the employee’s termination, then the employer must pay those no later than thirteen days after they come due. Additionally, the Act specifies that an employee’s waiver of the right to collect on commissions after they are terminated will not be enforced.

    The Act also contains severe penalties for employers who fail to comply with the Act’s guidelines for when to pay commissions. An employee may sue them for failure to pay, and receive up to three times the value of the commissions. Additionally, the employer may be forced to cover the salesperson’s court costs as well as their attorney’s fees.

    Legal Help

    If you are a salesperson being paid on commission who believes their employer violated this act, or if you are an employer concerned about whether your practices comply with the law, contact an experienced Illinois employment lawyer today. We serve many northwest suburban areas including Schaumburg, Palatine, Des Plaines, Rolling Meadows, and other nearby communities.

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