Employment & Labor Law
When provided with the right work environment, employees are more productive, employers are more profitable, and issues between employees and employers decrease significantly. Employment law, when correctly implemented and carried out, seeks to strike the delicate balance between the needs of employees and employers. The following non-exhaustive list represents a general overview of current employment laws governing the work environment.
Learn more about different areas of employment law including employment discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, age and disability discrimination laws, severance agreements, FMLA, and laws related to whistleblowers below.
An employee who suffers a discriminatory adverse action (i.e., termination, demotion, denied a promotion and failure to hire) has the option to bring a lawsuit against their employer.
Wisconsin has enacted the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act to protect employees from discrimination on the basis of age, ancestry, arrest record, color, conviction record, creed, disability, marital status, race, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, and use or nonuse of lawful products.
Illinois has enacted the Illinois Human Rights Act to protect employees from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual harassment, national origin, ancestry, military status, age (40 and over), order of protection status, disability (physical and mental), marital status, sexual orientation (including gender-related identity), unfavorable military discharge, arrest record (or criminal history record ordered expunged, sealed or impounded), citizenship status (born or naturalized U.S. citizen, U.S. national or documented immigrant), language (any language use not related to job duties), pregnancy (including childbirth or related medical or common conditions), retaliation (for opposing unlawful discrimination), and coercion/aiding and abetting (helping or forcing a person to commit unlawful discrimination). To be actionable under the Illinois Human Rights Act, the employer must employ at least 15 or more employees in the state of Illinois unless: (i) the charge alleges sexual harassment, pregnancy, retaliation, or physical or mental disability discrimination (only one employee is required in this case); (ii) the employer is a public contractor (e.g., someone who does business with the state of Illinois or is a unit of local government) or (iii) the employer is a unit of state government.
Federal statutes carry similar protections, including: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion); Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) (prohibits discrimination on the basis of age – over 40 years of age); Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (prohibits discrimination on the basis of mental or physical disability). The protections of Title VII, ADEA and ADA apply only to employers with 15 or more employees.
McDonald & Kloth, LLC, has successfully represented both employers and employees regarding discrimination claims. If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace or have received a complaint of discrimination, contact us immediately.
Want to learn more about workplace discrimination? Visit our blog What classifies as workplace discrimination?
State and federal law make it unlawful to harass an employee (or applicant for employment) based upon his/her sex. This includes unwelcome sexual advances, comments, innuendos, requests for sexual favors, touching and other conduct of a sexual nature. This also includes harassment aimed specifically at the person’s gender, as in the case where one employee chooses to treat another employee poorly simply because of that person’s gender.For employers, it is imperative that when a sexual harassment complaint is received, a prompt and comprehensive investigation is conducted and remedial action is taken. Engaging in these steps will ensure that employees are protected from unwarranted sexual advances. Importantly, providing a work environment free of sexual harassment will reduce liability exposure.
For employees, experiencing sexual harassment can be a traumatic experience, especially if the harasser is a supervisor. Most employers have a complaint reporting system in place to protect employees against sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace. Therefore, it is imperative that you place your employer on notice by following the proper complaint procedures. Employment laws protect employees that bring a good faith complaint of sexual harassment or discrimination from retaliation.
McDonald & Kloth, LLC, has successfully represented both employers and employees in sexual harassment claims. Learn more about how we can help with sexual harassment in the workplace.
Retaliation occurs when an employer subjects an employee to an adverse employment action (for example, termination, demotion, failure to promote, transfer, reduction in pay or benefits, etc.) because that employee either has engaged in protected activity. The term “protected activity” generally refers to a situation where an employee: (i) complains of and/or reports discrimination or harassment in the workplace aimed at him/her, (ii) complains of and/or reports discrimination or harassment in the workplace aimed at another person, (iii) filing a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the equivalent state administrative agency (Department of Workforce Development – Equal Rights Division in Wisconsin; Department of Human Rights in Illinois), and (iv) whistleblowing.
If you believe you have been the victim of retaliation in the workplace, contact the employment law attorneys at McDonald & Kloth, LLC. Learn more about how we can help with workplace retaliation.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as state law (Wisconsin Fair Employment Act; Illinois Human Rights Act) prohibits employers from discriminating against or harassing employees (and applicants) based upon a real or perceived disability. These laws also require employers to provide a disabled employee with a reasonable accommodation that is necessary for the disabled employee to perform his or her job so long as the accommodation does not create an “undue hardship” for the employer.
What constitutes a reasonable accommodation varies from situation to situation, and is analyzed on a case-by-case basis. It is important that the disabled employee seeks qualified legal counsel to negotiate the accommodation with the employer. Such accommodations may include job transfer or reassignment, altered work schedule, modified office equipment or technology, accessible office space, and intermittent leaves of absence. This is a nonexhaustive list.
Whether you are an employee or an employer, the experienced attorneys at McDonald & Kloth, LLC, can help you navigate and successfully resolve disability-related employment issues.
Read about one of our cases: City of Racine workers files lawsuit alleging race & disability discrimination
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), as well as state law (Wisconsin Fair Employment Act; Illinois Human Rights Act), prohibits employers from discriminating against or harassing employees (and applicants) because the employee is 40 years of age or older.
For employers, the ADEA is not the only issue to worry about with regard to employee relations. For instance, the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act mandates additional requirements on employers, especially when negotiating a severance package or settlement agreement.
Not everyone is able to leave their job on good terms. If you’re leaving your job, you may be asked to sign a severance agreement. Whether you are fired, laid off, or let go due to downsizing, being let go from a job isn’t a pleasant experience. The employment law attorneys at McDonald & Kloth, LLC, will gladly review your severance agreement to ensure you aren’t forgoing adequate compensation or giving up legal rights without your knowledge.
In order to be entitled to leave under either the FMLA or WFMLA, the employer must employ at least 50 or more employees during the relevant period of time, typically one year from an employee’s anniversary date. In addition, an employee is eligible if they have worked either 1,000 hours for WFMLA or 1,250 hours for FMLA within a 12-month period. If an employee is eligible, they may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period under the FMLA. Under the WFMLA, an employee may take up to 2 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period, which runs concurrently with any federal FMLA leave. A man or a woman may use this time to care for a newborn child or a parent, for example. If you have had trouble getting permission for this time off, or if you have suffered retaliation for taking time off, contact us.
There are many nuances to FMLA and WFMLA regulations. If your employer utilizes a no-fault attendance policy, they are prohibited from assessing you any points for FMLA related absences. It is important, however, that an employee complies with any employer call-in procedure in order to utilize the protections afforded by the FMLA and WFMLA. In addition, an employer can identify particular individuals as key employees if they meet certain criteria. This has a practical effect of negating most FMLA protections.
As an employer, it is critical that you have an FMLA attorney that can provide guidance when an employee requires FMLA or WFMLA.
Just looking for some FMLA Basics – read our blog post.
Wisconsin and Illinois employees are protected from retaliation in the workplace when they engage in conduct that is protected for public policy reasons. Various federal and state laws prohibit employers from taking adverse employment action against an employee because he/she has reported certain statutorily defined wrongdoing in the workplace. Often times, these employees are called “whistleblowers.”
The United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), is the federal agency responsible for enforcing whistleblower or anti-retaliation statutes. A non-exhaustive list of these statutes is as follows: