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Discrimination

Chicago Discrimination Claims Attorney

Representing Illinois workers whose rights have been violated

Workplace discrimination – the practice of treating a “group” of workers differently, based on a prejudice – is illegal under Federal and Illinois law. An employer who discriminates against an employee can be held accountable for those prejudicial actions. At Gainsberg Law, we fight for victims of discrimination in Chicago and throughout the state, and hold employers accountable for their actions. Contact us today to learn more about our services.

Who can be subjected to discrimination?

Anybody can be a victim of discrimination, because all workers are members of at least one protected class under the law. Protected classes include:

  • Age
  • Color
  • Creed
  • Disability
  • Genetic information
  • National origin
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex

Per the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), unfair wages, retaliatory acts, and sexual harassment constitute acts of discrimination, and discrimination based on a person being pregnant is also prohibited under the law.

What are examples of Chicago workplace discrimination?

In some cases, discrimination may be open– i.e., being denied a job because you are a woman, or because of your age for the work – but most cases are not this overt.

For example, a woman who is 7 months pregnant is denied a new position because, per the manager, the role requires constant oversight, and the pregnant candidate will be unable to devote this time once the baby is born.

This is an example of illegal discrimination; a woman has been denied a job because she is pregnant. Assumptions were made about her commitment to the job based solely on the fact that she will give birth to a child soon.

Other examples may include:

  • Being denied employment
  • Being denied a promotion
  • Being subjected to harsher or different forms of discipline than other employees
  • Having hours cut and/or changed
  • Being denied commensurate or equal pay
  • Being denied “perks” or bonuses granted to other employees in the same position
  • Being given “menial” or unrelated tasks to complete, and having your pay/hours affected by their completion
  • Being isolated, taunted, hazed, or bullied by coworkers or supervisors
  • Having your directives ignored by subordinate employees
  • Being harassed for your sex, gender, or gender identity
  • Being denied reasonable accommodations you are entitled to receive under the law
  • Being told you are a “diversity” hire
  • Being told to conform to an unreasonable dress code that other employees do not need to follow

Some forms of discrimination may not seem intentional, but that does not mean they do not exist. For example, if all supervisory positions are held by people of the same race, gender, age, etc., this lack of diversity could be discrimination. If the company routinely hires people of the same race, gender, age, etc., despite having a diverse pool of candidates to choose from, then the company may be engaging in discriminatory practices.

Is it discrimination if the pool of candidates are all members of the same class?

One question that comes up a lot in discrimination claims is, what happens when everyone in the candidate pool fits a certain “group”? For example, if ABC Manufacturing needs a new front desk attendant, and every candidate who applies is a white, middle-class woman in her mid-twenties, is the company engaging in discrimination?

It depends. If, for example, the job description requires a “reliable source of transportation,” but the job itself requires no travel, then an argument could be made that the employer is attempting to skew the candidate pool to include only members of a certain economic class. If a job description requires that the candidate speak English, it could be a way to avoid hiring immigrants. If the job description contains certain signifiers – “youthful,” “energetic,” family-oriented,” etc. – it could be a way to discriminate against older candidates.

This is called disparate impact, and is designed to look neutral while actually being discriminatory. Contact Gainsberg Law in Chicago if you believe that your company is engaging in this type of discrimination.

Which federal laws are in place to combat discrimination?

There are several federal laws designed to combat discrimination. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was designed to end discrimination, voter suppression, and segregation. There are two subsections of that law which specifically refer to discrimination:

  • Title VII, which “makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. The law also makes it illegal to retaliate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.” Title VII also allows for accommodations for “the practice of sincerely held religious beliefs,” provided those accommodations do not lead to undue hardship.
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which makes “it illegal to discriminate against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. The law also makes it illegal to retaliate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.”

Additional laws include:

  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963, which ensured equal pay for equal work for both men and women;
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which protect workers over the age of 40;
  • Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which makes it illegal to discriminate against workers with disabilities, and which demands that employers make reasonable accommodations for those workers; and
  • The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), which ensures that employers cannot discriminate against workers based on their genetic and health information.

Understanding the “undue hardship” contingency

The federal government understands that not all accommodations are created equal, and that asking them to take on an undue hardship is not just. However, the government does expect that employees will make every effort to accommodate certain needs. For example, an employer could be expected to allow workers to pray during certain times of the day, or refurbish an office as a place where mothers can breast feed. It expects that businesses will have wheelchair ramps, and that employees who require auditory software would be given that software.

Furthermore, the definition of “undue hardship” used by the ADA is different from the definition used by Title VII, which can make for some confusion. It’s one of the reasons why having a Chicago employment lawyer on your side is in your best interests, if you choose to file a claim. We are familiar with both definitions, and can ensure that your claim is sent through the right channels.

Illinois laws to combat discrimination

Illinois, like every other state, adheres to the federal laws when it comes to discrimination. In addition, the Illinois Human Rights Act “prohibits discrimination in Illinois with respect to employment, financial credit, public accommodations, housing and sexual harassment, as well as sexual harassment in education.” It applies to all nine federally protected classes, but also to:

  • Military status
  • Military discharge
  • Gender identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Citizenship status
  • Arrest records
  • Status as a victim of domestic abuse

Our laws also expand on the rights of people with disabilities because it identifies “disability” based on “determinable mental or physical characteristic of a person,” which allows for greater protections.

Discrimination vs. at-will employment

People often misunderstand what constitutes discrimination, and we understand why: sometimes, it can be hard to tell. For example, is it discriminatory to not offer unisex bathrooms, or is it an undue hardship to require the construction of a unisex bathroom? If a company needs to reduce its labor force and it lays off a person of color, is it an act of discrimination?

All of this is complicated by Illinois being an at-will state, meaning that your employer has the right to terminate you at any time, for any reason, provided it is not an illegal one. In short, your employer can fire you for being “bad” at your job, or because he or she needs to reduce the workforce, or for almost any reason he or she thinks of – but if that reason is grounded in prejudice against a protected class, then you could have a discrimination claim.

Why you need a Chicago discrimination lawyer for your claim

Discrimination, as we have said, is not always overt. Often, a good claim relies on a pattern of behaviors and practices. Chicago discrimination lawyer Neal Gainsberg is adept at finding those patterns, and presenting them in a clear and concise way to juries and in settlement negotiations. He is familiar with all state and federal laws regarding discrimination, and will fight to ensure that your rights – as a candidate or as an employee – are protected.

The most important reason to hire an employment lawyer, though, is that you deserve to be on equal footing. No company wants to be accused of discrimination, and they will have their own battery of attorneys trying to argue that they are right, and you are wrong. Hiring an attorney makes sure you have the best possible chance to present your claim on an even playing field.

How much is my discrimination claim worth?

As with any civil claim, the circumstances of your case will dictate the damages you are entitled to receive. You may be entitled to lost wages, attorneys’ fees, and other associated costs. If you join a class action lawsuit, the final award may be higher, but the percentage you receive may be lower.

Anti-discrimination lawsuits can also change corporate culture for the better. If a company routinely engages in discriminatory practices, a lawsuit may be the only way to ensure that those practices are abolished. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be entitled to punitive damages if the behaviors were especially egregious.

Chicago employment lawyer representing victims of discrimination

The state of Illinois and the federal government protect workers from discrimination. If you have been denied a job, a promotion, equal pay, or otherwise had your rights violated, Gainsberg Law wants to help. To schedule a consultation with a Chicago employment attorney, please call 312-600-9585 or fill out our contact form.