Everyday, serious employment law violations occur in workplaces throughout the United States. Workplace injuries, unsafe working conditions, exposure to toxic substances, discrimination/harassment/retaliation, wrongful termination, assault and battery, gender and race based unfair practices and unequal treatment, disability discrimination, failures to accommodate disability, failure to provide sick leave and FMLA leave, unpaid wages, unfair wages, unpaid overtime, unpaid commissions and benefits, and many other illegal actions that cause injury and damages to American workers.
Attorneys Kathleen Chavez and Elizabeth Chavez, a mother-daughter litigation powerhouse, lead FMCO’s employment law practice with an unmatched determination and commitment to workplace justice. FMCO has built a nationwide reputation as relentless workplace advocates whose attorneys are willing to fight hard for justice on behalf of individual plaintiffs or nationwide classes of unfairly treated workers.
Workplace fairness is not optional, and companies that disregard their legal obligations will be held accountable. FMCO is committed to ending injustices and illegalities that have persisted for far too long, damaging individuals and historically underrepresented communities. FMCO attorneys believe every worker deserves a safe, fair, and respectful place of work. FMCO will help workers hold companies accountable when they allow their workers to suffer discrimination, harassment, retaliation and bias based on gender, sexual orientation, race, national origin, disability, religion, age or because of other protected activities or categories. Every worker deserves a living- wage and to be paid according to state and federal laws.
Foote, Mielke, Chavez & O’Neil, LLC has earned an outstanding reputation in the field of employment law, with Kathleen and Elizabeth frequently lecturing on employment law at nationwide continuing-legal-education programs. While FMCO has been successfully defending employees from unfair workplace treatment for many years, we also actively represent employers and assist companies in drafting, adopting, and implementing workplace policies and practices.
How Our Employment Law Attorney Can Help
We fight for employees who are experiencing sexual harassment and discrimination, employees engaged in wage and hour disputes, workers who are suffering from unsafe working conditions, and those who have been discriminated against, harassed, retaliated against, or subjected to an adverse employment action such as wrongful termination.
Our employment law attorneys are aware that, in spite of the many federal and state laws in place to protect employees against mistreatment, many workers are underpaid, subjected to cruel and demeaning words and actions, and expected to perform their duties in a dangerous environment. As employment lawyers, we do everything in our power to defend workers’ rights and ensure that those who violate them pay a substantial price.
We are equally well-prepared to defend employers whose integrity is brought into question by employees who attempt to manipulate the system to their own advantage. Whichever side of an employment issue you’re on, our sharp attorneys are on your side.
If you are not being treated with dignity and respect in your workplace and believe that the issues you face have risen to the level of illegality, make an appointment for a consultation with one of our top employment attorneys. If we take you on as an FMCO Client, we will fight vigorously for the justice you deserve. FMCO Clients with employment cases often seek both monetary compensation and non-monetary relief, such as a change in practices, reversal of adverse employment action (such as a suspension), or discontinuance of policies that unlawful, unfair, or injurious.
Our employment lawyers are experienced handling cases at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”), state courts, federal courts, and other administrative agencies. We routinely help our clients in pre-dispute negotiations and in mediations, arbitrations, investigations, and other dispute resolution forums.
Employment Law: Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment can become apparent early on, even during the hiring process when, for example, candidates for employment may be scrutinized for their appearance, or propositioned as a prerequisite for employment. The two basic types of sexual harassment are quid pro quo and hostile work environment.
Quid pro quo harassment is an attempt to bargain for sexual favors. Whenever an employer or supervisor asks an employee for sexual compliance in return for a promotion, bonus, or better working conditions, quid pro quo harassment may have occurred.
Hostile work environment is the term used to describe a workplace in which there is a toxic atmosphere for one or more employees who are subjected to comments, jokes, gestures, sounds, words or images of a sexual nature, or to inappropriate touching. Although such misconduct may be defended by its perpetrators as “teasing” or “playful,” it is not only upsetting, it is against the law.
Two important points to remember about sexual harassment are  the gender or orientation of either party is irrelevant and  a single occurrence, unless egregious, does not constitute a hostile work environment; ongoing misconduct does.
Discrimination and the Laws that Protect You
Our job as employment law attorneys is to step in when the federal and state laws enacted to protect you are disobeyed. Discrimination against you as a member of any of the following protected classes is unlawful:
- Sex (pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity)
- Skin color
- National origin or ethnicity
- Age (40 or older)
- Genetic information
If you have been discriminated against for being a member of any of the qualifying protected classes, Foote, Mielke, Chavez & O’Neil is here for you. Whether you have been discriminated against in terms of hire, wages, job benefits, working conditions, or promotions, or have been subjected to excessive discipline or harassment, our skilled employment attorneys will stand up for your rights.
Employment Law: Wrongful Termination
Illinois is an “employment-at-will” state, meaning that you can be fired for any reason or no reason at all. Nevertheless, your employer is not permitted to terminate you because you are a member of a protected class. If you believe that you were terminated because of your membership in a protected class, or in retaliation for reporting unlawful conduct occurring in the workplace, contact one of our experienced attorneys today.
Wage and Hour Violations
Under relevant state and federal laws, individuals must be paid for all hours they have worked. There are state and federal laws that guarantee minimum wage and overtime pay. If you are not classified as an exempt employee (e.g. because you are in a supervisory or executive position, or working freelance), you are entitled not only to fair wages but potentially to rest and food breaks and sick or vacation time.
We assist clients with complaints about not being paid for overtime work, not being paid the state minimum wage, or being misclassified as exempt employees in order to be cheated out of earned income. We are committed to defending their rights with aggressive litigation.
Environmental and Safety Concerns/Whistleblowers
As a worker, you have every right to report environmental hazards in your workplace, such as toxic fumes, poor ventilation, asbestos violations, unsafe water, or unrepaired stairways. If your employer does not address the situation promptly and effectively, you have the right to advise appropriate government agencies, such as OSHA, of the problem.
You also have the full weight of the law to protect you from retaliation. If, as a whistleblower, you have been denied a promotion or bonus or wrongfully terminated, we encourage you to speak to one of our experienced employment attorneys, who can help you to decide whether you should file a case in court.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Issues
In 1993, with the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, U.S. labor law recognized that employees have family commitments that may have to be met, even if it means taking time off from work.
These commitments range from births and deaths to necessary caretaking of a loved one or preparing a member of the Armed Forces for deployment. The FMLA gives you the right to take unpaid leave for such events and to have your job waiting for you when you return. Our attorneys forcefully protect that right.
Generally speaking, employees are eligible for leave if they have worked for their employer at least 12 months, at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles. Whether an employee has worked the minimum 1,250 hours of service is determined according to FLSA principles for determining compensable hours or work. See https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/benefits-leave/fmla.
What is the Illinois Employee Rights Act?
The Illinois Employee Rights Act (Act No. A211-1318) is a state law that provides protections for employees in Illinois beyond federal employment laws. Key provisions of the Illinois Employee Rights Act include:
- Prohibiting employment discrimination based on protected classes such as race, gender, age, religion, disability, etc.
- Banning retaliation against employees who report unlawful discrimination or harassment.
- Requiring reasonable accommodations for disabilities, pregnancy, and religious beliefs.
- Protecting employee privacy by limiting employers’ collection and storage of biometric data.
- Guaranteeing employees unpaid leave for family and medical reasons under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
- Providing protections for nursing mothers in the workplace.
- Requiring employers to provide employees information on pay rates, deductions, employment classification, and more.
- Establishing employee rights related to personnel files, wages, working conditions, benefits, and termination notices.
Violations of the Illinois Employee Rights Act can result in civil lawsuits against the employer with remedies such as reinstatement, back pay, compensatory damages, and attorney’s fees.
What is the Fair Employment Practices Law in Illinois?
The Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination and harassment in employment based on protected classes and activities. Under this law, it is illegal for employers to make any employment decision based on factors like:
- Race, color, national origin
- Religion, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation
- Age (over 40), ancestry, marital status
- Physical or mental disability, military status
- Unfavorable military discharge, genetic information
- Use of lawful products outside of work
- Filing a complaint, participating in an investigation, etc.
Workplace decisions that can violate this law if based on the above factors include hiring, firing, promotion, compensation, assignments, benefits, or any other term or condition of employment.
Employees can file discrimination charges with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) or sue in state court under the Illinois Human Rights Act. Remedies include reinstatement, back pay, emotional distress damages, civil penalties, and more.
Contact Our Employment Lawyers for Prompt, Effective Legal Representation
Whether you are being sexually harassed at your workplace, fighting a wrongful termination, or dealing with one of the myriad problems of unfair treatment that may arise at the workplace, you should not feel that the odds are stacked against you. Contact one of our experienced employment law attorneys today for a free, no-obligation consultation.