• Posts by Allison Sues
    Partner

    Allison has spent a majority of her legal career defending employers and understands that each employment matter comes with its own unique challenges and considerations. Allison is a proactive and creative litigator who strives to ...

Illinois employers should update their leave policies in light of the new bereavement law going into effect on January 1, 2023.  On June 9, 2022, Governor Pritzker signed into law the Family Bereavement Leave Act (“FBLA”).  The FBLA amends the Child Bereavement Leave Act (“CBLA”) and expands upon an employer’s obligations to provide unpaid bereavement leave to its employees. 

The Pandemic Era brought in droves of new challenges for employers, including The Great Resignation – an unprecedented trend of employees voluntarily quitting their jobs starting in 2021 and continuing to today.  The unemployment rate is low and employers’ demand for labor is high meaning that it is more important than ever for employers to implement strategies for employee retention. Employers may want to kick-start these retention strategies with an eye towards working parents. 

On February 10, 2022, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that prohibits mandatory arbitration for workplace sexual harassment or sexual assault claims. The bill, H.R. 4445, originated in the House, and later passed there on February 7, 2022. The Senate quickly passed the bill by large, bipartisan margins. President Biden has voiced support for the bill and is expected to sign it into law.

H.R. 4445, named the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, prohibits enforcement of contracts that mandate that workplace disputes alleging sexual assault or sexual ...

On July 23, 2021, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) announced a proposed rule to increase the minimum wage for employees of covered federal contractors and subcontractors to $15.00 per hour. This rule follows President Biden’s Executive Order calling for an increase to the minimum wage for federal contractors. The rule suggests that the minimum wage increase go into effect January 30, 2022 and increase annually beginning in 2023 based on inflation. 

The Proposed Rule is not final and may be revised. The DOL is accepting comments until August 21, 2021 and will publish its ...

On June 15, 2021, The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance on “Protections Against Employment Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity.”  This resource reviews the impact of the Supreme Court’s Bostock v. Clayton County case and provides the EEOC’s position on what constitutes unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  The EEOC’s answers to key questions on this issue are summarized below. 

Does Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination extend to treatment based on ...

With the upcoming Memorial Day holiday offering an opportunity to acknowledge and appreciate the sacrifice made by military families, it seemed a fitting time to revisit the legal nuances of providing preference in hiring veterans with disabilities. Veterans report high instances of service-connected disabilities, including blindness, deafness, missing limbs, major depressive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Some laws require employers to provide preference to disabled veterans. Some employers voluntarily create affirmative action programs for ...

As we previously blogged about, the Illinois legislature passed Senate Bill 1480, which, in relevant part, provides that unless otherwise authorized by law, an employer may only consider an individual’s criminal conviction history if there is a substantial relationship between the criminal history and the position sought or held, or if the employer can show that the individual’s employment raises an unreasonable risk to property or to the safety or welfare of specific individuals or the general public. Governor Pritzker has now signed the bill into law – which went into ...

Illinois has long limited employers from considering the criminal history of an applicant or employee in making employment decisions. The Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits employers from considering an employee’s arrest history, for example. In recent years, Illinois’ “Ban the Box” law disallows employers from asking about criminal convictions prior to a job offer or before a candidate is selected for an interview and, therefore, assumed to be otherwise qualified for the position in question. Now, Illinois is poised to go a step further in banning the use of criminal ...

Have you seen the 2019 viral video and articles about the young African American wrestler being told by a Caucasian referee that he either had to cut off his locs or forfeit the match? Or the resulting public outcry and negative media attention the referee and school received?

Since 2019, CROWN Act legislation has been gaining momentum. The CROWN Act stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” and is legislation that specifically prohibits discrimination in employment based on hair texture, protective hairstyles – including braids, locs, twists, and ...

As COVID-19 rates are rising throughout the country, employers may want to review the safety measures they are taking to prevent spreading the coronavirus in the workplace. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently released additional guidance on the interplay between COVID-19 and an employer’s legal obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Key questions and answers regarding steps that employers can lawfully take to safeguard their workplace are summarized below:

  • May employers ask all employees physically entering the workplace if ...

On August 31, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a new opinion letter shedding light on the application of the fluctuating workweek method for paying overtime wages required under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  

Under the FLSA, employers must pay nonexempt employees at least one and half times their regular rate for all hours in excess of 40 worked in an actual workweek.  For employees who work variable hours each week, the employer may use the fluctuating workweek method to compute the amount of overtime pay owed to a nonexempt employee as long as the following criteria are ...

The Supreme Court declined to review a Ninth Circuit decision that would have answered a question currently splitting the circuits: may an employer consider employees’ salary histories in setting their current pay without violating the Equal Pay Act (EPA)?  As discussed in our previous blog article on January 14, 2019, the EPA prohibits employers from paying wages to employees of one sex less than employees of the other sex for equal work. The EPA holds employers strictly liable for differential pay, regardless of whether the employer had discriminatory intent, unless the ...

As employers seek to reduce costs and time in the hiring process through artificial intelligence (AI) tools, they should also be aware of potential legal risks that come with merging recruitment with technologic innovation. Employers are turning to AI to assist with many aspects of the recruitment and hiring process, including automating the sourcing of potential candidates, screening from an existing candidate pool, and using AI assessment tools, such as conversational chatbots and video interviewing tools that can measure a candidate’s strengths based on factors such as ...

This month, two federal circuit court of appeals reversed district courts’ grants of summary judgment in cases filed under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). With these twin cases, it seems as good of a time as any to provide a brief refresher on employee rights and employer obligations regarding those in military service. 

On December 3, 2019, the Tenth Circuit reversed a decision by the U.S. District Court of Kansas in Greer v. City of Wichita, which dismissed an USERRA claim alleging that a city museum denied an employee an interview for a ...

Flu season is here and that likely means employers can hear sneezing and sniffling up and down the hallways at work.  Sick employees are less productive and their absences can disrupt an employer’s operations.  Worse still, sick employees may come into work and spread an illness to coworkers, exacerbating the problem.  According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), recent studies show that flu vaccinations reduce the risk of flu by between 40 and 60 percent.  Given this, employers may wish they could mandate that all employees receive a flu vaccination.  But can they?

For those ...

As employers scramble to meet the September 30, 2019 deadline to submit pay data for years 2017 and 2018, they can find some relief in knowing that the EEOC recently stated that it does not intend to collect pay data for 2019 or after at this time. According to the EEOC’s Notice of Information Collection, the EEOC will only request approval from the Office of Management  and Budget (OMB) to renew its collection of Component 1 data (demographic data), but will not seek approval to continue collection of Component 2 data (pay data and hours worked data). 

Since previously requesting ...

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), retaliation claims continue to be the most frequently filed charges of discrimination at the federal agency by far. According to the EEOC’s Fiscal Year 2018 Enforcement and Litigation Data, retaliation claims made up 51.6 percent of all charges filed last year. Given their frequency, employers should be as proactive as possible in protecting themselves from these claims.

The Seventh Circuit recently affirmed summary judgment in a Title VII retaliation case, and in doing so sent a reminder to employers ...

On June 26, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed the continued viability of Auer deference, an interpretive doctrine that requires courts to defer to an agency’s reasonable reading of a genuinely ambiguous regulation. In confirming the use of Auer deference, the Supreme Court also narrowed its scope, setting out clear limits to courts’ use of this doctrine. This decision came in the case Kisor v. Wilkie, which involved an ambiguous regulation of a Department of Veteran Affairs rule.  

In affirming Auer deference as a viable interpretive tool for courts to employ ...

EEO-1 report filers should prepare to submit Component 2 pay data for both calendar years 2017 and 2018 by September 30, 2019. As we previously reported, the U.S. District Court for the District Court of Columbia previously ruled that employers must submit pay data for calendar year 2018 by September 30, 2019. In this ruling, the court also presented the EEOC with the option to either collect pay data for calendar year 2017 or calendar year 2019. The EEOC recently announced that it will collect pay data for calendar year 2017. Pay data for both 2017 and 2018 will be due September 30 ...

On April 25, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that employers must submit pay data by September 30, 2019. For a more detailed background on the case at issue, National Women’s Law Center v. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), please see our blog from last month. As a brief background, years ago the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) set out to collect pay data from employers in an effort to identify and address pay discrimination against women and minority workers. The EEOC already collects data from employers regarding the sex ...

On April 3, 2019, the EEOC informed a federal district court that the earliest it could complete its collection of pay data from covered employers as part of their EEO-1 data reporting obligations is September 30, 2019. The court still needs to rule on the EEOC’s proposed plan and, therefore, employers have not received a final deadline by which to file the required pay data. However, this filing brings employers one step closer to an answer for an issue that has caused them justified concern given the significant time and resources that will be needed to collect this pay data. 

Here is a ...

Many employers would appreciate a clear road map when traveling the often winding roads of reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  However, there are no rigid routes for the interactive process.  After an employee requests an accommodation, the employer must engage in a good faith and flexible dialogue that addresses the employee’s specific medical limitation, request, job position, and work environment, among other factors.  That said, employers can find guidance in at least ten hard and fast rules on the reasonable accommodation process:

    The Supreme Court may soon answer a question that divides federal courts: may an employer consider an employee’s salary history when setting pay without violating the Equal Pay Act (EPA)? The EPA prohibits employers from paying wages to employees of one sex less than employees of the other sex for equal work. The EPA holds employers strictly liable for differential pay, regardless of whether the employer had a discriminatory intent, unless the employer can show the difference in pay is based on a seniority system, merit system, quality or quantity of production measurements ...

    Flu season is here and offers an opportune time to discuss the tricky intersection between the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and employers’ efforts to require mandatory vaccinations and health screenings for employees.  Some employers, especially those in the healthcare field who provide direct services to patients, require employees to pass a health screening or receive certain vaccinations either upon hire or at other periodic intervals. Employers should ensure that these efforts comply with the ADA. 

    The ADA allows certain health screenings and inquiries ...

    As we draw closer to the end of 2018, let’s reflect a bit and look forward with purpose.  The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released preliminary FY 2018 sexual harassment data that is consistent with the #MeToo movement:

    • Sexual harassment charges increased by more than 12 percent – the first increase in at least eight years;
    • EEOC focused on harassment claims and filed 66 harassment lawsuits; and
    • EEOC recovered nearly $70 million for sex harassment victims (up from $47.5 million in 2017).

    These statistics do not include the many charges that ...

    A recent decision from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois sheds light on how to determine what job tasks are properly considered essential functions of a position under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A plaintiff alleging that her employer denied her a reasonable accommodation for her disability must prove that she is a qualified individual, which requires showing that she can perform all the essential functions of the job with or without an accommodation. In the recent decision, the court dismissed a police officer’s failure to ...

    Illinois employers should be aware of amendments to the Illinois Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act that expand the rights of employees who need to express milk while they are at work. Both before and after the amendments, the Act requires employers to provide a private space, other than a toilet stall, for mothers to pump at work. The amendments, which went into effect immediately when Governor Bruce Rauner signed House Bill 1595 on August 21, 2018, make some key changes to the law, each discussed below:

    • Employers cannot require employees to pump during their break time. Formerly ...

    In the wake of the #MeToo movement, companies have been reviewing their sexual harassment training and investigation practices, and many states have considered the need for additional legislation offering protection to employees. For example, we previously covered legislation discouraging confidential settlements of sexual harassment claims in Tennessee, Washington, and New York. Recently, California enacted new legislation that protects employees who report sexual harassment from lawsuits claiming that they defamed the alleged harasser. Assembly Bill No. 2770 ...

    Last month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion that provides a helpful reminder about the extent to which an employer may ask an employee to work during a leave taken under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In D’Onofrio v. Vacation Publications, Inc., a sales representative requested FMLA leave to care for her husband, who had suffered a major back injury. Her employer gave her two options – she could either go on unpaid leave or she could log on remotely a few times per week during her leave in order to service her existing accounts and keep her ...

    Because not all recoveries from medical conditions come in neat twelve-week packages, employers commonly need to address employees’ requests for additional leave after they have exhausted all leave afforded under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) or company policy.

    The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has long taken the position that terminating an employee who has exhausted FMLA leave, but is still not able to return to work, may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). For instance, the EEOC guidance, issued on May 9, 2016, opined that ...

    On August 2, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued a decision in Nischan v. Stratosphere Quality, LLC providing clarity on what constitutes an employer’s “constructive notice” of harassment.

    Michele Nischan worked as a project supervisor at Stratosphere Quality, LLC, a company that provides third-party inspection and quality-control services to car manufacturers. Nischan alleged that an employee of one of the client manufacturers “relentlessly” sexually harassed her by routinely rubbing himself against her and making ...

    The seventh circuit recently clarified under what circumstance a collective bargaining agreement may restrict an employee’s access to a judicial forum for purposes of resolving statutory claims. In Vega v. New Forest Home Cemetery, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s dismissal of a Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA) claim brought by a former employee who had not complied with the grievance process provided in his collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

    Luis Vega filed an FLSA lawsuit claiming New Forest failed to pay him for 54 hours of work. Vega was a union member ...

    The National Business Group on Health’s Eighth Annual Survey on Corporate Health recently revealed the growing prevalence of workplace wellness programs. Many such programs are expanding their aim to not only better the physical health of employees, but also to improve employees’ emotional health and financial security.

    Employers should be cautious that health and wellness programs, particularly those dealing with the physical and emotional health of employees, do not run afoul of existing laws. Many employers offer employees health promotion and disease prevention ...

    On April 4, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, sitting en banc, held that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The seventh circuit decision is significant as the first of its kind. The United States Supreme Court has never ruled whether Title VII prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the seventh circuit, as well as the other United States Circuit Courts of Appeals had previously established a long line of precedent holding that claims ...

    On February 17, 2017, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California held that job applicants could proceed with their disparate impact claim brought under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

    In Rabin v. Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP, plaintiffs filed a putative class action alleging that the global accounting and auditing firm used hiring practices and policies for entry-level positions that gave preference to younger applicants and resulted in the disproportionate employment of younger employees. The complaint alleged that these ...

    On January 6, 2017, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) twitter account confirmed the federal agency’s interest in “gig economy” workers. “Gig economy” workers refer to individuals working in modern, flexible employment structures that contract with an employer for a short-term project or on a job-by-job basis, rather than working in traditional, long-term relationships with a single employer. For example, gig economy workers generally reference temporary workers, freelancers, independent contractors, and staffing ...

    On October 19, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed a District Court’s Rule 12(b) (6) dismissal of two plaintiffs’ retaliation claims brought under Title VII and the Illinois Human Rights Act. In Volling and Springer v. Kurtz Paramedic Services, Inc., Case No. 15-3572, two Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) alleged that their employer and its new subcontractor refused to hire them because they had reported and/or supported claims of sex discrimination and sexual harassment against the employer’s previous subcontractor to the ...

    With the 2016 general election heating up, discussions about politics and candidates will inevitably enter the workplace. Employers should be aware of several critical legal issues when responding or reacting to politics in the workplace, as well as understanding workers’ rights to engage in the political process.

    Imposing a blanket ban on political discussions may run afoul of the National Labor Relations Act.

    The NLRA, which applies to private unionized and non-unionized workplaces, protects non-supervisory employees’ discussions about terms and conditions of ...

    Last month, the EEOC issued its Enforcement Guidance on Retaliation and Related Issues.  Having last issued guidance on retaliation claims in 1998, the agency stated that an updated publication was necessary in light of the significant court rulings on these claims, as well as the increasing frequency of retaliation claims in administrative charges and lawsuits. Retaliation is now the most commonly alleged basis of discrimination.

    Of particular interest, the EEOC discusses at length its position on various issues that arise in determining whether an employee has engaged in ...

    On July 28, 2016, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an unpublished decision that analyzed an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) failure to accommodate a claim involving an employee who had applied for and received social security benefits for her disability. This case provides a helpful reminder on how employers should handle ADA plaintiffs who allege that they can return to work with accommodation but elsewhere represent that they are totally disabled from working.

    In Stallings v. Detroit Public Schools, Case No. 15-2428, the court affirmed the district court’s ...

    Last month, an EEOC Task Force issued a lengthy report on harassment in the workplace.  The report begins with mention of the prevalence of harassment claims, which appear in almost a full third of the employment discrimination charges that the EEOC received in 2015. Given this, the report recommends that employers reboot their anti-harassment measures. Among other helpful research and advice, the report discusses risk factors that make a workplace more susceptible to harassment, many of which are discussed below:

    • Workforce comprised of many young workers. Those in their ...

    The Colorado state legislature recently passed House Bill 16-1438 requiring employers to engage in an interactive process to assess potential reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees and applicants for health conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth.

    If Colorado’s governor signs this bill into law, Colorado will join a growing group of states that have passed similar legislation, including Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Utah, West Virginia, and the District of ...

    Welcome to the Labor and Employment Law Update where attorneys from SmithAmundsen blog about management side labor and employment issues. 

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