Job Discrimination

It is illegal to discriminate in hiring, promotions, termination (known as wrongful termination) or other aspects of employment on the basis of a person’s race, gender, national origin, religion, disability, or age, or to retaliate against an individual for opposing such practices, or consulting an attorney or the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)/span> or equivalent state entity (in Illinois, the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) in Chicago or Springfield). In addition, various states, counties, and cities, also outlaw employment discrimination and wrongful termination on the basis of other classifications such as: marital status, military service, parental status, etc. Although they can also be wrongful termination claims, because they are not as common, they have not been discussed in this website. But if you have a question about employment discrimination or wrongful termination, please call an employment lawyer.

Employment discrimination and wrongful termination claims can be difficult because the employee has to prove that the reason he was fired (wrongful termination), not hired, not promoted, or otherwise harassed is because of his (or her) “protected classification”. By protected classification, we mean a person’s gender (male or female), race (black or white), national origin (Hispanic, Asian, African, or having parents or grandparents from anywhere outside of the United States), age (over 40), or disability. In this sense, the employee has to prove why the company did it.

In the case of religious discrimination, and disability discrimination, it may also be illegal for an employer to deny reasonable accommodations to an employee. For example, absent extenuating circumstances, an employer cannot require a person to violate his or her religious beliefs such as working on the Sabbath, eating a forbidden food, or using alcohol if doing so is against the person’s religious principles. Instead, the employer must make an accommodation enabling the employee to do his job without violating his religion. Similarly, an employer must accommodate the disabilities of its employees if those disabilities meet certain standards. If a company terminates an employee without considering an accommodation, this too can be wrongful termination.

This page discusses the proof, definition, and pitfalls of employment discrimination and wrongful termination claims (wrongful termination is a kind of discrimination.) Other pages specifically address the different kinds of employment discrimination:


What is Discrimination?

Discrimination lawyers, particularly employment discrimination lawyers, often find themselves in the difficult position of having to explain the difference between reality and legality. By its definition, discrimination simply means the process of choosing between two alternatives. But discrimination law or more appropriately anti-discrimination law addresses the act of making choices based upon a person’s race, gender, religion, national origin (ethnicity), disability, or age (over 40) or other protected class. There are also some laws that prohibit discrimination based upon a person’s sexual orientation. These are commonly wrongful termination claims. Wrongful termination is particularly serious because a person can lose an entire income.

Most states, including Illinois, recognize the doctrine of “at will” employment. At will employment simply means that an employee works for a company only so long as both employee and the company want the relationship. In short, the employee can no more make the company give him a job than the company can make the employee work. You can quit any time you want to quit and a company can fire you any time it no longer wants you working for it. In fact, neither one of you needs a reason to end the relationship. (Thus, most terminations are not a wrongful termination.) Employment discrimination, wrongful termination and retaliation are exceptions to at will employment.


The Laws

There are many laws that address employment discrimination and wrongful termination including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and others, as well as many state and local laws including for example the Illinois Human Rights Act. Some of these laws require that the employer have at least 15 employees; and the total number of employees can effect the amount of money that can be recovered for discrimination or wrongful termination. (In promotion and wrongful termination cases, there is no limit to the amount of back pay that can be collected.) In addition, these laws have different statutes of limitations. If you have an employment discrimination or wrongful termination claim you should contact an employment lawyer as soon as possible.


Proving Discrimination

Employment discrimination and wrongful termination (and retaliation) is proved by the “direct method” or the “indirect method”. The direct method usually involves an admission. “You don’t belong in a man’s job, you’re fired” is direct proof. “Why did they hire a woman to do this job?” when the wrongful termination or discrimination happens months or even years later will not be direct proof. A comment by someone other than the person who committed the discrimination will usually not be direct evidence. Direct proof cases are easier (although it helps if someone other than the plaintiff heard the comment).

The indirect method of proof is more common and it takes place in three steps. First, the employee must prove that he is qualified for the promotion (or in a wrongful termination case, the job) and is of a different race, sex, ethnicity, religion, or other protected classification than people who were treated better (i.e. did not get fired, or did get a promotion.) Next, the company must give another reason for different treatment (usually poor performance, but it could be almost anything.) Then, the employee must prove that the company’s reason(s) was a lie. Evaluations are often helpful, particularly if the person who was treated better has weaker evaluations. (This is particularly important in wrongful termination cases.) It is always important to have good performance and attendance, but even more important when you believe you are facing employment discrimination or are afraid of retaliation (particularly wrongful termination) because you might give the company another reason to fire you.

Trafficking in Women

Trafficking in persons is an increasing problem that involves both sexual exploitation and labor exploitation of its victims. Trafficking affects all regions and the majority of countries in the world. Both men and women may be victims of trafficking, but the primary victims worldwide are women and girls, the majority of whom are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Traffickers primarily target women because they are disproportionately affected by poverty and discrimination, factors that impede their access to employment, educational opportunities and other resources.
 
Sex and labor trafficking of women is a complicated phenomenon with many forces that affect women's decisions to work abroad. Perhaps the strongest factor is a desperate economic situation, which impacts the availability of satisfactory employment in many countries for women more severely than men. Women may become victims of trafficking when they seek assistance to obtain employment, work permits, visas and other travel documents. Traffickers prey on women's vulnerable circumstances and may lure them into crime networks through deceit and false promises of decent working conditions and fair pay. Women may go abroad knowing that they will work in the sex industry, but without awareness of the terrible work conditions and violence that accompany the trafficking business. Other women answer job advertisements for positions abroad such as dancers, waitresses, and nannies, only to find themselves held against their will and forced into prostitution and sexual slavery. In the destination countries, women are subjected to physical violence, sexual assault and rape, battery, imprisonment, threats and other forms of coercion.
 
Under international law, governments are obligated to protect their citizens from being trafficked, through programs that aim at prevention and the protection of victims. Explore trafficking topics to become part of the change: