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2021 Midwest Road, Suite 200, Oak Brook, IL 60523

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I get a lot of calls for consultations asking me if the employee can sue their employer for firing them. The employee will cite that it was 'unfair', that the employer 'is mean' or just likes other employees more. However, employers can usually fire employees as they see fit. It does not have to be fair. The employer can be completely unreasonable and that's perfectly legal.

Types of Wrongful Termination

The good news is that there are laws that protect employees from claims of 'wrong termination' and when it is absolutely NOT legal for an employer to fire an employee. Wrongful termination claims are:

  • Illegal discrimination. This is when an employee is fired for her race, age, color, genetic information, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, family status, disability, and sometimes veteran status (if an employer has 15 or more employees). Those are the federal protected classes that are universal for all states. Some states and even cities have additional protected classes.
  • When employee asked to commit an illegal act. If an employee refuses to comply with orders to commit an illegal act and is fired for doing so, this is wrongful termination. Illegal acts include fraud, violating industry-specific laws and codes, and violating other employees' rights such as refusing to pay for overtime.
  • Whistleblowing. Whistleblowing is when an employee witnesses an employer engaging in illegal acts and reports the employer to the government agency. The employer then fires or otherwise retaliates (such as demoting) against the employee.
  • Retaliation. If an employer demotes, fires, or decreases pay of an employee who exercises his legal rights, this is considered retaliation. For example, if an employee requests accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and is fired, this is retaliation. If an employee demands her rightfully owed overtime pay, this is a form of retaliation.

In addition to the above forms wrongful termination, there are contract-based ways to illegally fire an employee. They are:

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You may be in a situation where you are asking yourself 'man, I think I may need a lawyer for this,' whether you are starting up a new business and need some contracts, need advice on how to organize your business, or you think you are about to get into a legal battle with a former business partner. But before you start looking for attorneys, it's good to know what you are looking for and how to evaluate an attorney prior to hiring. I'm going to first lay out how to find look for an attorney then the questions you can ask when speaking to an attorney:

How to Search for an Attorney

  1. Start with your networks. If you've had friends or family who had a similar legal issue, ask them first. It's a good way to get some names of lawyers who have been tried and you can gauge whether an attorney will handle your case well.
  2. Call Your Local Bar Association. Another way to get a list of attorneys is if you simply go to a search engine and type '[your county] bar association.' Many bar associations have a list of vetted attorneys that they refer cases to. The bar association can also guide you to the type of attorney you may need.
  3. Search online. Of course it's 2019 and you can easily get on the internet and search away. There are some drawbacks to this method because 1) you are not sure what type of lawyer you need and 2) it may be difficult to vet them, especially in this day and age where good marketing can cover up bad lawyering. Regarding knowing what type of a lawyer, be clear about your issue rather than the type of lawyer you are looking for. For example, since I practice contract law, I had an potential client who asked for a prenuptial agreement. Although prenuptial agreements are technically contracts, a family attorney is better suited for this role. So again, when calling law firms, explain your situation more and the law firm can get a better sense if they can serve you. With respect to the vetting issue, I will address that in my section.

How to Vet Attorneys

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Introducing New Reimbursement Laws for Employees in Illinois

Are you an employer who requires her employees to buy their own uniforms? Or are you an employee who uses his personal cell phone for work purposes? Well, as of January 1, 2019, that all changes. Illinois amended the Illinois Wage Payment and Employment Act to now require that employers 'reimburse an employee for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee within the employee's scope of employment and directly related to services performed for the employer.' See 820 ILCS 115/9.5. 'Necessary expenditures' means 'all reasonable expenditures or losses required of the employee in the discharge of employment duties and that inure to the primary benefit of the employer.'

An employer is not responsible for reimbursing the following:

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I talk a lot about contracts. So here is a seminar I delivered recently on contracts 101. You can easily listen to this on your next commute!

(Video length: 15 mins)

 

A lot of clients come to me, often after being fired, telling me their boss discriminated against them. Their boss is 'racist' they say. However, discrimination and illegal firing of employers is very specific and often hard to prove.

Let's start with what the general rights of an employee and having a job are. Most employees are at-will employees. This means an employer can fire an employee at any time for any reason. Employees must understand that they have no legal right to be employed by the employer. Once you start from this basic fact, it is easier to understand what rights employers do have.

When it comes to workplace discrimination, we need to understand what discrimination is. Illegal discrimination applies only to certain 'protected classes' of people. In Illinois, these protected classes are:

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