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Bad Credit History is a New Form of Discrimination

A company is not allowed to refuse to hire Latinos or blacks because of a criminal record or bad credit.

In a recent move to even greater equity in the workplace, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is warning companies that they may not use credit history information as criteria for hiring or firing. This comes about as a result of the EEOC suing Kaplan Higher Education Corp. for doing precisely that – using credit history information that had a major “disparate impact on black job applicants.”

Another of the EEOCs lawsuits is against Freeman Cos., sued for using criminal records and credit checks to screen applicants for their national events and exhibition marketing company. The EEOC is bound and determined to erase racism and “colorism” from the workplace. And if the statistics are any indication, they have their work cut out for them, as the number of workplace discrimination suits shot up to 99,922 in 2010.

These particular lawsuits are the tip of the iceberg in an initiative to dissolve what is referred to as arbitrary barriers for minorities to find work. Is this controversial? Yes, because the lack definition of what has an adverse effect on blacks and other minorities has always been a hot button and the focal point of disputes. It is one facet of discrimination law that troubles many Chicago employment lawyers and the courts.

The EEOC indicates that things such as background checks may wrongly exclude a large majority of minority job applicants. On the other side of the fence, many employment lawyers feel that if the criteria for hiring is not racially motivated and it is used for everyone who applies for a job, then it is not racially discriminatory. Put another way, it is not anyone else’s business (i.e. the government) to try and second-guess hiring practices unless the job applicants are being treated differently because of their race.

Of interest is that the Supreme Court has not viewed the “disparate impact” with any degree of favor over the years. In fact, two years ago, they ruled that the City of New Haven had discriminated against white firefighters who had high scores when it chucked out a promotion test because it had an adverse impact on black firefighters. Unfortunately, the court did not see fit at the time to clarify the issue any further.

Such hiring practices are not inherently illegal even if they do happen to have a negative impact on minorities. But, having said that, the employer must be able to demonstrate that the hiring criteria is necessary for the job being applied for in the first place; something that is not always easy to do.

If you happen to be facing a situation that you feel is adversely affecting your ability to get a job, then you need to speak to a highly qualified Chicago employment lawyer. You need to find out your rights, how the law as it exists applies to your case and what your options are in dealing with your situation.

Timothy Coffey is a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace. To learn more or to contact a Chicago employment attorney, visit Employmentlawcounsel.com.

This entry was posted on Monday, February 21st, 2011 at 5:02 pm and is filed under Discrimination
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Religious Discrimination Becoming a Potential Landmine

Reverse discrimination is becoming a potential landmine of legal issues. Laws to protect the rights of minorities may result in discrimination against others.

In a rather unusual case reported in the media, a relationship counselor was dismissed when he said he would not provide sex therapy for a homosexual couple. The counselor felt that the Bible’s point of view about homosexuality made it impossible for him to give the two advice. His co-workers deemed that unacceptable and he was fired.

The man took his case to court and stated he was a victim of religious discrimination and had been fired for refusing to act against his beliefs. His claim was not successful and the courts referred to it as irrational and capricious. Pundits watching this case feel that situations like this have the potential to create an imbalance in laws set up to protect the rights of minorities with the end result that those with religious beliefs are discriminated against.

Some regard this ruling as a bellwether signaling the death of religious literacy, because instead of protecting minorities from genuine discrimination, the courts may have created an imbalance in favor of minorities. In this particular case, many feel that the courts are not particularly cognizant of how vital and important religious teachings and convictions are to some individuals, despite the common mores of the rest of society.

Where will this rather new development lead? It is an interesting question and one whose answers likely lies in what society versus the courts feel is relevant and represents reality. The reality of today is that most people accept the fact that gay couples are a part of society. For those that do not accept this precept, their journey is a different one with no clear destination in mind. Reverse discrimination is an issue just beginning to poke its head up in various court cases. How the courts deal with it will be another question.

If you feel you have been a victim of religious discrimination in a similar matter or another form, do not hesitate to contact an experienced Chicago employment lawyer. Discrimination is a very difficult and diverse area of the law and you need to know if your particular situation may be handled in court or through negotiations. Without the assistance of a skilled Chicago employment lawyer, cases like this are difficult to resolve.

Timothy Coffey is a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace. To learn more or to contact a Chicago employment attorney, visit Employmentlawcounsel.com.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 15th, 2011 at 5:03 pm and is filed under Discrimination
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Chicago Employment Lawyer Explains Equal Opportunity Job Openings

A job advertised as an EEO means the company may not discriminate in benefits, payment, firing and other vital areas.

“If you’re looking for a job and find one that indicates it is an equal employment opportunity (EEO), it means that the company cannot discriminate against you in terms of recruitment, training, benefits, payment, firing or hiring. In addition, when the job is posted, that company must post a notice for all workers that outlines their rights under EEO laws,” said Timothy Coffey, a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace.

The EEO laws forbid discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, pregnancy, age or sex. In addition, a company cannot refuse to hire or fire someone for not speaking English, unless it is a specific job qualification.

“For example, if a warehouse employee’s job not does not include talking to sales representatives about ordering, they cannot be fired for not speaking English. Put another way, if the company is discriminating against those who do not speak English, they must prove a job absolutely requires English,” Coffey said.

An offshoot of discrimination is often harassment. Harassment may include bullying, name calling, stalking, verbal and non-verbal threats, targeted and offensive teasing and sexual innuendo, assault, lewd gestures and other offensive behaviors. “It is not just women that may be sexually harassed. Men can be as well,” Coffey said.

Workers who are in situations at work where they feel they are being harassed, demeaned, discriminated against, threatened or bullied, need to take their concerns to an expert Chicago employment lawyer. If attempting to deal with the issue by reporting it to management has not resulted in any changes, it may well be time to take legal action.

The law is there to protect those who are being subjected to harassment and discrimination and those laws need to be enforced in workplaces that choose to flaunt the rules and regulations. “Righting a wrong situation in a workplace is often a lot about not only doing it for yourself, but doing it for others who may follow in your footsteps later. Harassment and discrimination are not to be tolerated in today’s working world,” Coffey said.

Timothy J. Coffey is a Chicago employment lawyer with, and owner of, The Coffey Law Office, P.C., a Chicago employment litigation firm. To learn more, visit http://www.employmentlawcounsel.com

This entry was posted on Sunday, January 30th, 2011 at 7:56 pm and is filed under News and Press
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Chicago Employment Lawyer Suggests Reviewing any Severance Package Prior to Acceptance

Never accept a severance package at face value. Take it to a skilled Chicago employment lawyer for review.

It is well known that the U.S. economy is forcing many businesses to cut back operations. That may include laying people off, putting any expansion plans on hold or making deep cuts to the budget. This is all done in the name of being able to stay in business.

“Whatever the reasons for your layoff, you may get offered a severance package. Many of them seem to be, on the surface, good deals. However, some of them have drawbacks you might not be aware of and this is why you need to consult with an employment lawyer,” said Timothy Coffey, a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace.

In today’s economy, one way to cut expenses at the office is to reduce the number of workers on board. This is accomplished through layoffs. Generally, many employers will issue their laid off staff a check for a month or more to help them while they try to find other work. None of these packages are standard and may vary from case to case.

Employers may create severance packages based on a number of criteria, such as how long the worker has been with the company, what their position is, how much they are paid, their performance and other factors that fit the particular employee being laid off and the circumstances at the time. “The thing you need to know about severance is that although you may feel that you deserve it, the employer is normally not required to give you one in a layoff situation,” Coffey said.

On one hand, severance is a bonus that may assist someone get through the rigors of job hunting. On the other, the paperwork that usually goes with a severance package and check usually means an individual does not get their pay for weeks or months. This of course compromises the person trying to keep up with their financial obligations while looking for work.

“The one thing that many people do not realize is that accepting a severance check may disqualify you from getting unemployment benefits. Never just accept what you are given without speaking to an employment attorney first,” Coffey said. “In addition, you may also not be aware of the fact that if you accept the package, you generally are required to release your rights to file a claim against the company for any wrongdoing they may have perpetrated.”

Timothy J. Coffey is a Chicago employment lawyer with, and owner of, The Coffey Law Office, P.C., a Chicago employment litigation firm. To learn more, visit http://www.employmentlawcounsel.com

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 20th, 2011 at 7:55 pm and is filed under News and Press
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Companies Asking for Doctor Notes for Absence When Workers are on Intermittent FMLA Leave May be Sued

If you are working for a company that is asking you to produce a doctor’s note when you are absent when you are already on an abridged calendar leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, you may be the victim of illegal FMLA interference.

A recent federal court decision will significantly impact on companies that have an employee head count policy or paid sick leave policies that demand workers justify their absences with doctor’s notes if a worker is already on intermittent leave under the FMLA.

The decision centered on the finding that the defendant company’s attendance policy illegally obstructed the plaintiff’s use of FMLA leave, by mandating that a doctor’s note must be turned in after every absence, despite the fact that the doctor had already sent in a certification stating the need for sporadic leave for up to a year.

The court indicated the company demanding a doctor’s note every time the worker was not there ultimately discouraged the plaintiff, and other workers, from taking intermittent leave. In addition, it found that the FMLA’s recertification regulations already protect the company from an employee’s abuse of leave.

While the defendant argued that they were just enforcing their attendance policy, which also acted to discourage leave abuse, the court held that the note requirement unjustly interfered with FMLA leave because it was burdensome and may compel the worker to submit notes on a weekly or more recurrent basis. The judge further held that recertification is the preferred way to verify a worker’s time off is related to the FMLA and is so stated in the regulations.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, this is something that really needs to be discussed with a Chicago employment lawyer who stands up for worker’s rights. You will need to know precisely what those rights are, what may be done about the situation, what will happen should you go to court and what you may expect as an outcome to your case.

Timothy Coffey is a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace. To learn more or to contact a Chicago employment attorney, visit employmentlawcounsel.com.

This entry was posted on Saturday, January 15th, 2011 at 7:54 pm and is filed under News and Press
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Workers Protected by Law for Reporting Unlawful Actions to Employer or Government

If you see something amiss in the workplace, you have the right to report it. You also have the right to be protected for speaking out.

In a nutshell, if you do report something that you believe may be illegal happening in your workplace, you are protected by law from your employer taking action against you. If they do take action, this may be illegal retaliation. Taking a step forward like this is something that a good, responsible worker would do; speak out to report a wrong that they believe is violating the law.

If you are acting in good faith, are being honest and reasonable and trying to rectify what you view as an illegal action, you are backed up by the whistle-blower retaliation statute(s). These statutes, usually found in a state’s Labor Code, but also on the federal level, are becoming a rapidly developing area of law that targets the rights of workers against retaliation or any other damaging actions that an employer may choose to take against an employee who has blown the whistle on them.

Typically speaking, it is your right to speak out and complain about dishonesty and illegal actions in a workplace. You may choose to report the matter to the employer or to a government agency. Most people prefer to report what they suspect is illegal activity to a government agency, to provide themselves with an arm length protective barrier against their employer.

Situations where someone is reporting a company for a violation of the law are tricky. Although the worker may take a stand to stop it, most are not comfortable with reporting something they view as illegal to the person they feel is responsible for the activity.

Most commonly, many of the violations reported deal with safety problems or hazards and/or harassment and discrimination against other workers. Often there may also be reports of unfair business practices that may involve defrauding the federal government or other falsifications. Speaking up means the person is swimming upstream in a virtual holding pattern, as many of the other workers around them want to maintain the status quo for the sake of conformity; they wish not to rock the boat and change things.

It is no small matter for someone to risk their career, paycheck and financial security to speak out against a wrongdoing. Many spend hours agonizing over whether what they are planning to do will make a difference, what will happen when they speak out and wondering if they are even right about the illegality of certain actions on the part of the employer.

You are not required to be 100 percent certain that what you are speaking out about is not legal. This is something for your Chicago employment lawyer to sort out and you definitely need an experienced employment litigation attorney on your side. The sooner the better, as actions like this are complicated and you need to have your rights protected.

While it may feel like a real risk to stand up, be counted and speak your truth, you have that right and you are protected if you do so. If you are the victim of unlawful retaliation, speak to a seasoned Chicago employee litigation attorney to have action initiated on your behalf and specifically customized to your situation.

Timothy Coffey is a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace. To learn more or to contact a Chicago employment attorney, visit Employmentlawcounsel.com.

This entry was posted on Saturday, January 1st, 2011 at 7:51 pm and is filed under News and Press
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Am I entitled to leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

The FMLA provides that large companies must allow their employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave if they are seriously ill, are dealing with complications from a pregnancy, are new parents or are caring for a family member with a serious health problem. However, not all workers are entitled to this leave.

Some highlights concerning who is covered under the FMLA include:

  • The FMLA is aimed at businesses with 50 or more workers. Companies with over 15 employees must allow pregnancy disability leave.
  • You have to have been working for at least one year before the FLA applies to you.
  • A worker is eligible if he or she suffers from a serious health condition that means they can’t work; needs to care for a child, parent or spouse who is ill; is caring for a newborn or newly adopted child or new foster child; for prenatal care and pregnancy related illnesses or giving birth.

Learn more about who is covered under the FMLA here.

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 3rd, 2010 at 7:28 pm and is filed under Disability and FMLA, Employment Law
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Know your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) offers protection to individual with disabilities in several ways. Disability discrimination may occur because of a current disability, and it also may occur when a covered employer treats an applicant or employee less favorably because he or she has a history of a disability. And example of this would be cancer that is controlled or in remission. Discrimination may also occur if an indicidual is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory and minor – even if he or she does not have such an impairment.

The law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer (“undue hardship”).

The law also protects people from discrimination based on their relationship with a person with a disability (even if they do not themselves have a disability). For example, it is illegal to discriminate against an employee because her husband has a disability.

Note that not everyone with a medical condition is protected by the law. In order to be protected, a person must be qualified for the job and have a disability as defined by the law.

Learn more about the ADA and protect conditions here.

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 3rd, 2010 at 7:27 pm and is filed under Disability and FMLA, Discrimination, Employment Law
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The Coffey Law Office offers helpful employment tips

The Coffey Law Office strives to provide clients with quality representation and useful information concerning Employment Law issues. To these ends, we are please to offer employment tips. A brief sample includes:

  • If you feel that you have been let go illegally, such as being fired as the result of you filing a discrimination complaint, Illinois has a statute of limitations. This means your claim has to be filed within a certain specified time period or you can’t take action on it. This is vital to discuss with your attorney.
  • Be aware that when you are working and for the first year after you have left your place of work, voluntarily or involuntarily, you’re entitled to a copy of your personnel records within 7 days after you ask for them. If you do not get them, you need to report that to the Illinois Department of Labor.
  • If you have been let go and are being subjected to some rude and possibly intimidating behavior, remain respectful and say nothing. Whatever you say could come back to haunt you later if a judge and jury hears what you said.

View all tips here.

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 3rd, 2010 at 6:17 pm and is filed under Discrimination, Employment Law, Harassment, News and Press
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