Being treated fairly by your employer in how you are hired, paid and promoted is not just desirable, in Illinois it is a human right. People are discriminated against in their jobs all the time. Some people figure it is not worth the effort to seek justice, others may not even notice the discrimination. However, you have the right to challenge your employer for employment discrimination so that they can't continue to get away with treating people unfairly.
Employment Discrimination Laws
Employees are protected from discrimination by both state and federal law. There are a number of federal laws which prohibit discrimination in the workplace. These protections are covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the American Disabilities Act (ADA); Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA); Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA); and the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA).
Illinois also has laws governing employment discrimination. Under the Illinois Human Rights Act, employees are also protected from discrimination based on similar protections afforded by federal law, with additional protections that go beyond the federal laws. The size of the company may also affect which discrimination laws will apply. Together, state and federal law prohibits discrimination based on the following protected classes:
- National Origin
- Age (for people over 40)
- Genetic Information
- Family or Medical Leave
- Sexual Orientation
- Citizenship Status
- Marital Status
- Gender Identity
- Military Status
Signs of Employment Discrimination
In some cases, an employer will come right out and say something that makes it clear that they are discriminating against an employee based on a protected status. However, in most cases, the discrimination may be more subtle. A manager may make racially charged comments to another employer, other employees may pass around a sexist cartoon, or a boss may consistently give one employee higher value projects at the expense of other workers.
Some employers out-rightly treat some employees different from others based on their sex, race, or perceived sexual orientation. Other individuals may not realize they are discriminating against others, but do so out of their own stereotypes about the abilities of other races, sexes, ethnic groups or those with a physical disability. The laws protect people from not only intentional discrimination, but also employment practices that have a discriminating effect due to race, sex, color, religion or national origin.
Employment discrimination may involve business owners, boards, presidents, managers, supervisors or even other employees. Employment discrimination may come in many forms, including harassment or retaliation for standing up to discriminatory actions. Common discriminatory practices include:
- Job Transfer;
- Retirement Benefits;
- Benefits; or
- Other conditions of employment.
A hostile work environment may also be the basis for an employment discrimination claim. This may occur when a supervisor or employee engages in some offensive and unwelcome conduct, the conduct was severe enough to create an abusive working environment, and the defendant knew or should have known about the conduct, but failed to take corrective action. An example may be a co-worker who makes inappropriate sexual comments, gives unwanted massages, or sends nude pictures, and a supervisor does nothing to address the problem.
An employer may not even have to take such obvious actions to engage in employment discrimination. An individual can be constructively discharged if the employer made or allowed working conditions to be so difficult that they had to resign. This may involve regular threats of termination or demotion, sexual harassment or discriminatory language. These kinds of activities may make a reasonable person feel that they are compelled to resign from their position.
Employment Discrimination Cases
The process for filing a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) involves intake; mediation; investigation; findings; and legal review. However, if your case is not resolved through the IDHR and EEOC process, you may want to take your case to court for a successful resolution. You may have more remedies available if your case proceeds to a federal court jury.
In order to file a legal claim for employment discrimination, the plaintiff generally has to to show that they are a member of a protected class; they experienced an adverse employment action; and the plaintiff's race, color, sex or other protected status was a motivating factor for the action. Some defendants may have a mixed motive for retaliating or discriminating against an employee. However, the discriminating basis doesn't have to be the only reason for the adverse action, just a motivating factor that made a difference in the defendant's decision.
Often times, the employer may give a false reason for firing or not promoting another employee. This pretext, or excuse is a way for employers to cover up their real motivations which may be based on discrimination. Some ways to show the defendant's stated reason was really a pretext include showing that the defendant did not enforce rules equally, acted contrary to company practice or policy, or did not carry out procedures equally.
Employment discrimination can be difficult to prove in some cases. There may be little physical evidence of discrimination. Contacting a lawyer with employment discrimination experience may help to understand the legal process, how to investigate an employment discrimination case, and the chances of a successful outcome.
Employment Discrimination Remedies and Damages
There are many remedies available for individuals who have experienced employment discrimination. This may include financial damages including back pay, attorneys' fees, and court costs. It may also involve promotion, reinstatement or other reasonable accommodation by the employer. Other damages may include compensation for emotional pain, suffering, mental anguish or loss of enjoyment. In some cases, a jury may award punitive damages to the individual. These are damages that are intended to deter the defendant and others from engaging in similar discrimination in the future.
Employment Discrimination Lawyers
If you suspect that you were fired, denied a raise or passed over for a promotion because of discrimination, you should speak with an experienced attorney who understands employment discrimination cases. Our attorneys have successfully handled employment discrimination cases for our clients in Peoria and throughout the state of Illinois. If you have suffered financial or emotional injury as the result of employment discrimination, contact your experienced Illinois employment law attorneys. At Benassi & Benassi, we are committed to getting our clients the justice they deserve.