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Features Court Cases in the News

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A state-by-state review of court cases pertaining to workplace rights.

Select your state from the map below or from this list. (If your state does not have any court cases, then the page will not scroll down when you click on the state.)


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Illinois

EEOC Obtains $600,000 Verdict Against AutoZone For Failure To Accommodate Disabled Employee

Source: Press Release, EEOC
Date: June 6, 2011

A federal court jury in Peoria has returned a verdict of $600,000 against AutoZone, Inc. for failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to a disabled sales manager, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.

After nearly 10 years, sex-harassment suit may finally be settled

Source: Ameet Sachdev, Chicago Tribune
Date: February 22, 2011

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is about to conclude what its attorneys suspect is the longest discrimination lawsuit in the history of its Chicago office.

Jewel Settles Disability Discrimination Lawsuit for $3.2 Million

Source: Francine Knowles, Chicago Sun-Times
Date: January 6, 2011

Jewel-Osco parent Supervalu Inc. has agreed to pay $3.2 million to settle a federal lawsuit claiming the company discriminated against disabled employees.

EEOC Sues DHL Alleging Racial Segregation of Workers

Source: Andrew M. Harris, Bloomberg
Date: September 27, 2010

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued DHL Express (USA) Inc., alleging it discriminated against black Chicago-area employees by giving them worse assignments than their white counterparts.

$10 Million Settlement Reached in Bias Case

Source: Paul Biasco, Daily Herald
Date: September 16, 2010

A federal judge granted preliminary approval to a $10 million settlement in lawsuit against a major freight hauling company whose black employees at Elk Grove Village and Chicago Heights facilities were discriminated against.

Employer Must Provide Names and Addresses of Possible Victims of Discrimination to EEOC

Source: Press Release, EEOC
Date: July 26, 2010

CHICAGO - Magistrate Judge Susan E. Cox for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois has ruled that a major trucking industry employer must provide the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) with a list of the names with last known addresses and phone numbers of all African-American employees employed at its Chicago Ridge facility from 2004 until the facility was closed in 2009.

Balance Staffing to Pay $100,000 Under Decree in EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit

Source: Press Release, EEOC
Date: June 17, 2010

A federal judge entered a consent decree on June 15 requiring a nationwide staffing company to pay $100,000 to a blind woman against whom the company discriminated because of her blindness according to a suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

Supreme Court Gives Plaintiffs Multiple Opportunities (Potentially) to File Timely EEOC Charges Alleging Disparate Impact Discrimination

Source: Dionysia Johnson-Massie, Littler Mendelson, P.C.
Date: June 11, 2010

In Lewis v. City of Chicago, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that plaintiffs alleged a cognizable claim of disparate impact discrimination under Title VII when one filed a charge of discrimination within 300 days1 of their employer, the City of Chicago ("City"), using an alleged discriminatory employment practice in a hiring decision.

Federal Court Accepts Report of Woodward Governor Compliance with EEOC Consent Decree

Source: EEOC, EEOC
Date: February 22, 2010

Global Infrastructure Equipment Company Relieved of Operating Under Decree in Discrimination Case After 36 Months of Continuous Progress

Illinois-Based Railroads Ordered by US Department of Labor to Compensate Employee Fired for Reporting Work-Related Injury

Source: Rich Kulczewski, U.S. Department of Labor
Date: February 12, 2010

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has ordered the Illinois Central Railroad Co. and the Chicago, Central & Pacific Railroad, both headquartered in Homewood, Ill., to pay a former railroad employee more than $80,000 in back wages, compensatory damages and attorney's fees.

Court Approves $6.2 Million Distribution in EEOC v. Sears Disability Settlement

Source: EEOC, EEOC
Date: February 8, 2010

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced court approval of the distribution of a $6,200,000 compensation fund in the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) litigation between the EEOC and Sears, Roebuck & Co.

Single Mother Wins $200,000 in Job Bias Case

Source: Courtney Rubin, Inc.
Date: January 26, 2010

Dena Lockwood says her employer fired her after she stayed home from work to care for a sick child.

Chateau Del Mar / Hickory Hills Country Club to Pay Up to $690,000 to Settle Eeoc Sex and Race Discrimination and Retaliation Lawsuits

Source: EEOC, EEOC
Date: June 26, 2009

A popular Hickory Hills, Ill., banquet facility and country club will pay up to $690,000 to settle two lawsuits, charging sex and race discrimination and retaliation, brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

Ceisel Masonry to Pay $500,000 for Harassment of Hispanic Workers

Source: EEOC, EEOC
Date: May 26, 2009

Ceisel Masonry will pay half a million dollars to settle a race and national origin discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

Sidley letter filed in bias suit sets age 65 to retire

Source: Barbara Rose, Chicago Tribune
Date: June 6, 2006

Federal civil rights lawyers, in the latest salvo in a closely watched age discrimination suit against law firm Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, are shining a light on a 1999 letter in which the firm stated it required partners to retire at age 65. The letter appears to contradict Sidley's arguments in the 18-month-old case that the firm has no mandatory retirement age. The case is being watched because a ruling could have implications for hundreds of thousands of professionals working in firms that have mandatory retirement ages for partners as a way to pass ownership to future generations. Partners are considered exempt from federal discrimination statutes because they are owners rather than employees.

State's strikebreaker law called 'incompatible'

Source: Michael Higgins, Chicago Tribune
Date: January 11, 2006

In a legal victory for Illinois employers, a federal appeals court ruled that a state law passed in 2003 to protect striking workers is so "starkly incompatible" with federal labor law that it's unclear how any responsible legislature, or governor, could have approved it. The sharply worded opinion concerned an amendment to the state's Employment of Strikebreakers Act, which made it a crime for employers to use a day labor service or other temporary agency to replace striking workers. The 7th Circuit said the law ventured directly into an area--the balance of power between employers and striking workers--where federal law reigns supreme.

Abbott suit gets class-action status

Source: Associated Press, Chicago Tribune
Date: January 4, 2006

A federal judge has granted class-action status to a lawsuit accusing Abbott Laboratories of cheating older workers out of retirement benefits when it spun off its hospital equipment business in 2004. The plaintiffs claim Abbott, a manufacturer of pharmaceutical and medical products, spun off the unit containing many of its older workers because they were near to claiming rich retirement benefits from Abbott. The complaint was initially brought by three former Abbott employees represented by Sprenger & Lang PLLC and Meites, Mulder, Burger & Mollica. Attorney Steven Sprenger estimated that the number of former employees now eligible to participate in the suit may exceed 10,000.

Workers join fight over city hiring

Source: Laurie Cohen, Dan Mihalopoulos, Chicago Tribune
Date: November 30, 2005

Six current and former city [Chicago] workers joined the long-running battle over City Hall patronage Tuesday, alleging that their careers in Mayor Richard Daley's administration suffered because they lacked the right connections to pro-Daley political organizations. The six workers became plaintiffs in lawyer Michael Shakman's federal lawsuit against the city, which has yielded a federal consent decree that for decades has presented a barrier between political influence and City Hall hiring, firing and promotions. The lawsuit asserted that Chicago taxpayers are harmed when unqualified workers, including people with criminal records, advance through the administration's ranks because of their political connections.

Worker gets 3 years for spiking firm's coffee

Source: Dan Rozek, Chicago Sun-Times
Date: September 2, 2005

A Skokie [Illinois] man who grew so angry at his bosses that he spiked the company coffeemaker with toxic chemicals and urine was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison. A videotape shot last October by a hidden security camera captured [the employee] dumping substances into a coffeemaker at the plant where he had worked for 15 years. What prompted the sabotage?

Did fiery essay get author fired?

Source: Michael Higgins, Chicago Tribune
Date: August 18, 2005

A born-again Christian hoped to get some reaction when he wrote a fiery online essay denouncing same-sex marriage. The strongest response came from his employers. Allstate fired [him], setting off a dispute that shows signs of becoming the next legal cause celebre among religious conservatives. [He] filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that Allstate's action constituted discrimination on the basis of religion. Contrary to popular belief, private companies in Illinois and in virtually every other state can fire workers for saying things that embarrass the company. [His] theory is that his views on same-sex marriage constitute religious expression and thus are protected under federal civil rights laws.

Salons sued over alleged language ban

Source: Matt O'Connor, Chicago Tribune
Date: August 12, 2005

The operators of 22 hair salons in the Chicago area barred Hispanic employees from speaking Spanish to one another even while on break, a federal lawsuit alleged Thursday. The suit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accused the owners of the stores of discriminating on the basis of national origin with their "English only" rule. The suit was filed on behalf of an undetermined number of Latino women who work or formerly worked at the franchises owned by the two businesses. The EEOC's regional attorney said the lawsuit was one of several filed by the agency in Chicago in recent years to address "English-only" rules in the workplace.

Walgreens suit cites racial bias

Source: Mark Albright, St. Petersburg Times
Date: June 21, 2005

Eleven current and former Walgreens employees filed a class-action suit on Monday alleging the drugstore chain discriminates against African-Americans in hiring, work assignment and promotion. Filed in East St. Louis, the federal suit says the chain of 4,700 stores has systemically steered blacks to run stores in low-income neighborhoods where they are least likely to earn lucrative bonuses for their performance. The suit seeks unspecified compensation and punitive damages for an undetermined number of African-Americans who were Walgreens store managers, assistant store managers, executive assistants or applied for such jobs dating to June 2001.

Court OKs monetary awards in Sidley suit

Source: Ameet Sachdev, Chicago Tribune
Date: June 10, 2005

A federal judge Thursday denied a request by Chicago law firm Sidley Austin Brown & Wood to bar the federal government from seeking monetary damages on behalf of former partners who allegedly were demoted because of their age. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in January sued Sidley Austin, one of the nation's largest law firms, accusing it of discriminating against older partners. The case is being widely watched because it challenges the assumption that partners are not protected by anti-discrimination laws by virtue of being owners rather than employees. A ruling would have implications for professionals working in fields from law and accounting to investment banking and medicine.

Court says EEOC suit can proceed on Caterpillar

Source: Bloomberg News, Chicago Tribune
Date: June 1, 2005

A U.S. appeals court has ruled that the government can pursue a lawsuit accusing Caterpillar Inc. of discriminating against female employees in Illinois. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the lawsuit in 2003 claiming Caterpillar allowed sexual harassment of women working at its plant in Aurora and punished those who complained. The EEOC said the case began as an investigation of a woman's claim that she was fired for rebuffing a supervisor's sexual advances. Caterpillar, which denied the allegations, had sought to narrow the case to the single claim. But the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on Friday upheld a judge's decision to let the claim of plantwide discrimination go forward.

$7 million HIV-bias suit hits Penneys

Source: Barbara Rose, Chicago Tribune
Date: May 24, 2005

A former department manager at a J.C. Penney store is asking for more than $7 million in damages in a suit alleging he was fired because he is HIV positive. The suit was filed last week on behalf of Joseph Manasse in Cook County Circuit Court under Illinois law. It alleges that managers falsely accused him of theft in order to fire him because they had problems with his HIV status. He seeks a jury trial and compensatory and punitive damages for defamation, wrongful firing, emotional distress and other charges. Federal complaints about HIV employment discrimination have declined since the mid-1990s, when the Americans with Disabilities Act--which took effect in 1992--was seen as an effective vehicle for challenging discrimination.

Exam bias ruling may cost city $80 million in firefighter lawsuit

Source: Fran Spielman, Chicago Sun-Times
Date: March 24, 2005

Chicago taxpayers could be on the hook for $80 million--four times what black applicants were willing to accept a year ago--now that a federal judge has ruled the city's handling of a 1995 firefighters entrance exam discriminated against African Americans, an attorney for the plaintiffs said Wednesday. "If the city keeps stonewalling, we'll proceed to adjudicate damages. It will end up being incredibly expensive," said Matt Piers, the former deputy corporation counsel representing black firefighters. The $80 million tab could be even higher if Hispanic candidates adversely affected by what U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall called the city's "statistically meaningless" cutoff score of 89 succeed in their demand for a similar settlement, even though they didn't file suit.

EEOC action against Sidley Austin may change law firms worldwide

Source: David Hechler, National Law Journal
Date: January 19, 2005

In a case the big law firms have been watching for years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Sidley Austin Brown & Wood last week, charging that the firm discriminated against 31 partners when it expelled them from its partnership. Though EEOC lawyers emphasized in an interview that the case is about one law firm, not an industry, a law professor who is an expert on partnerships called it "an important case" that is going to have "profound implications across the world in law firms."

Law firm accused of discrimination

Source: David S. Hilzenrath, Washington Post
Date: January 14, 2005

The law firm Sidley Austin Brown & Wood LLP illegally discriminated against older employees by forcing partners out because of their age, federal regulators alleged yesterday in a lawsuit. The suit seeks reinstatement or back pay and other lost benefits. It tests whether people labeled as partners by the giant firm were in effect employees protected by federal anti-discrimination law. The term "partner" has been applied loosely at professional-services firms, and "all kinds of firms" may need to "go back and really revisit what their practices are," Cari M. Dominguez, chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which brought the suit, said.

Muslim charges bias led to firing

Source: Matt O'Connor, Chicago Tribune
Date: January 4, 2005

A Muslim-American who formerly worked for a suburban [Chicago] manufacturer filed a federal lawsuit Monday alleging he was fired after he complained of harassment by co-workers and supervisors after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The number of cases alleging workplace discrimination based on religion has increased significantly since the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In the three years after Sept. 11, the number of discrimination charges by Muslims or those perceived to be Muslim nearly doubled to 1,778, compared with 892 in the three years before the terrorist attacks, the EEOC said.

Ex-'Hooters Girl' wins $275,000 in harassment suit

Source: Natasha Korecki, Chicago Sun-Times
Date: November 24, 2004

A federal jury late Tuesday awarded a former "Hooters Girl" $275,000 in damages, finding credible her claims of peepholes in the women's dressing room and sexual harassment by her managers. Jurors awarded Joanna Ciesielski, 26, $25,000 for emotional distress and $250,000 in punitive damages. Her attorney, John DeRose, said it was just under the $300,000 cap for sexual harassment damages. A tearful Ciesielski left the courtroom with her boyfriend, saying she's happy she stood up for what she believed in.

U.S. wins ruling over Caterpillar class action

Source: Matt O'Connor, Chicago Tribune
Date: November 10, 2004

A federal judge on Tuesday reversed a previous decision and allowed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to pursue a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all women allegedly harassed sexually at Caterpillar Inc.'s Aurora [Illinois] facility. The EEOC applauded the reversal and said it "significantly improves EEOC's position in this case and confirms an important principle of law." The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Chicago last year, alleged that Caterpillar permitted the sexual harassment of female workers at its Aurora facility.

Workers sue Abbott over unit spinoff

Source: Bruce Japsen, Chicago Tribune
Date: November 9, 2004

Former Abbott Laboratories employees filed a lawsuit Monday accusing the pharmaceutical giant of spinning off its hospital products division--and the division's 10,000 U.S. workers--into a new standalone company in order to unload costly benefit obligations. The complaint alleges that Abbott and spinoff Hospira Inc. interfered with workers' rights to receive employment benefits. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that the companies violated the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, commonly known as ERISA. The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, said 70 percent of Abbott's hospital products workers were 40 or older, making the division the most senior division in the company.

Printer settles racial bias lawsuit

Source: Associated Press, Miami Herald
Date: October 22, 2004

Printing giant R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. has ended a decade-long court fight by agreeing to pay $15 million to settle a race discrimination lawsuit filed by black workers at a now closed [Chicago] plant. The workers claimed Donnelley permitted a work environment that was hostile to blacks and included claims nooses and Ku Klux Klan costumes were used to intimidate workers. Donnelley also was accused by about 600 black workers of discriminating through its hiring practices and the way it shutdown [the] facility. Donnelley, with the $15 million payment, will have paid about $36 million since 2003 to settle discrimination claims resulting from the closing of the plant in 1994.

I.B.M. employees get $320 million in pension suit

Source: David Cay Johnston, New York Times
Date: September 30, 2004

I.B.M. said yesterday that it had agreed to pay $320 million to current and former employees to settle in part a class-action lawsuit over its pension plan in a case that may affect millions of workers at many companies and nonprofit organizations. The agreement came as a federal judge was preparing to rule on how much I.B.M. should pay to some 130,000 current and former employees. One remaining claim is at the very heart of the case: whether cash-balance pension plans by definition discriminate against older workers.

Buddig settles bias case for $2.5 mil.

Source: Bob Tita, Chicago Business
Date: September 7, 2004

Meatpacker Carl Buddig & Co. has agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit that accused the company of discriminating against women and African-American job applicants. The money will be distributed to an estimated 300 African-Americans and women involved in the case. The U.S. Equal Employment Commission sued Buddig in federal court in 2002, charging that during the 1990s the company rarely hired blacks and steered women employees to the lowest-paying jobs.

Muslim lawyer files discrimination suit against firm

Source: Eric Herman, Chicago Sun-Times
Date: September 6, 2004

A Muslim lawyer slapped one of the country's biggest law firms with a discrimination suit last week, saying it cut his work load and then fired him in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Zafar Hasan worked in the Chicago office of Foley & Lardner, a Milwaukee-based firm with nearly 1,000 lawyers and offices from Tokyo to Tampa. Before September 2001, Hasan had billed the highest number of hours in his department at Foley, his lawyer said. Afterward, his hours plummeted. Hasan charges the firm with discrimination based on color and national origin, as well as race and religion. His suit seeks reinstatement to the firm, back pay and unspecified damages.

Niketown accused of bias

Source: Ameet Sachdev, Chicago Tribune
Date: August 24, 2004

The Niketown store on Chicago's Magnificent Mile discriminated against African-American employees by segregating them into stockroom jobs and denying them promotions to higher-paying sales positions, says an amended federal lawsuit filed Monday. Lawyers for the 15 plaintiffs, who are current and former Niketown employees, are seeking class-action status for their claims, covering up to 200 people. The plaintiffs are seeking an unspecified amount of damages, including lost wages and benefits. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

Whistle-blower sues, cites retaliation

Source: Matt O'Connor, Chicago Tribune
Date: August 18, 2004

A truck driver for the City of Chicago alleged in a federal lawsuit that he has been repeatedly disciplined for being a vocal critic of alleged wrongdoing in the Department of Streets and Sanitation. The lawsuit by Bruce Randazzo, 47, contended the city has an unwritten policy protecting personnel violations by politically connected workers yet it retaliates against those who speak out, in violation of their 1st Amendment rights. The lawsuit said Randazzo, a city employee for about 10 years, has blown the whistle about the city allegedly letting employees engage in political campaigning and fundraising on city time and misuse city facilities and equipment.

Muslim ex-employee sues Sears

Source: Matt O'Connor, Chicago Tribune
Date: August 18, 2004

A Muslim former employee of a Sears, Roebuck & Co. subsidiary alleged in a federal lawsuit Tuesday that co-workers constantly referred to him as a terrorist and used other derogatory terms. Belal Degedeh, who is of Palestinian descent, alleged that when he complained, a general manager told him that he "should get used to being treated differently." The lawsuit seeks Degedeh's job back, lost wages and unspecified damages, according to his lawyer, Kamran Memon.

Feds hit restaurants with sex, racial bias lawsuit

Source: Natasha Korecki, Chicago Sun-Times
Date: August 12, 2004

Women who worked at three Cracker Barrel restaurants in Illinois say they were groped by fellow employees or managers, subjected to obscene jokes, shown pornographic pictures and, when they complained to their bosses, were laughed at. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission joined 10 women Wednesday in leveling sexual harassment and racial discrimination accusations against Tennessee-based Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc., a company typically known for its biscuits-and-gravy kind of small-town feel.

Sexual harassment lawsuit adds to strain at Sara Lee

Source: Susan Chandler, Chicago Tribune
Date: August 6, 2004

Sara Lee Corp. Chairman Steven McMillan is locked in a nasty legal battle with a Dallas woman that threatens to embarrass the button-down Chicago company at a time when its business is losing steam. In a federal lawsuit filed July 27, Brenda Jarvis alleges McMillan offered her a $140,000 marketing position last year but made it clear he expected her "to engage in a sexual relationship with him." The charge against McMillan is unusual, employment experts say, because Jarvis is alleging an overt quid pro quo, or a job in exchange for sex. These days, most sexual harassment is less blatant and harder to demonstrate.

Navy Pier worker wins sex bias award

Source: Natasha Korecki, Chicago Sun Times
Date: August 5, 2004

A federal jury on Wednesday awarded $2.8 million to the lone female electrician at Navy Pier who said she was told "mothers like you caused Columbine," was constantly ridiculed and was later penalized for not staying home with her kids. Deirdre Pawell, 39, of Lemont brought the lawsuit against the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority last year, alleging she was harassed by male co-workers and supervisors for her decision to be a working mother.

A United Airlines union sues 3 executives over pension funding

Source: Associated Press, New York Times
Date: July 30, 2004

One of United Airlines' labor unions sued company executives on Thursday for halting contributions to the company's pension plans while the airline remains in bankruptcy protection. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents more than 20,000 ramp workers and customer-service agents, accused the top three United officials of a breach of fiduciary duty in connection with the pension decision announced last week. The suit seeks the amount United owes the pension plans plus a court order that they carry out its funding obligation.

Sex-bias suit takes aim at accounting firm's culture

Source: Ameet Sachdev, Chicago Tribune
Date: July 28, 2004

Armed with a law degree and 11 years of experience as a tax consultant, Melissa Page thought she had the right stuff to become a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, one of the world's largest public accounting firms. Her career, she said, was derailed by a corporate culture that excluded women from highly sought partnerships and denied them access to informal networking opportunities, such as golf outings and poker parties. Page's allegations are part of a lawsuit accusing PricewaterhouseCoopers of systematically discriminating against women. The suit, filed last month in federal court in Chicago, contends that while nearly half of entry-level associates in the tax practice were women, just 9 percent were partners. Page's lawyers are seeking class-action certification to include potentially thousands of current and former female employees at the accounting giant's offices nationwide.

Suit accuses Maytag of age discrimination

Source: Nathaniel Hernandez, Associated Press, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Date: July 15, 2004

A federal lawsuit filed Thursday alleges that Maytag Corp. improperly demoted some senior managers over the age of 50 because the appliance maker feared they would not be able to implement new sales procedures. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleges in the lawsuit that Maytag violated federal age discrimination laws when it eliminated 13 of its 22 regional sales manager positions in 1999. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, alleges that Maytag violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which protects workers age 40 and older.

Calumet City clerk employee files discrimination lawsuit

Source: Patrick Ferrell, The Star [Illinois]
Date: July 4, 2004

An employee of the Calumet City [Illinois] clerk's office has filed a discrimination suit against the city and its mayor charging city officials overlooked her for a promotion because she was pregnant. Yolanda Wilhelm's federal lawsuit also charges Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush promised Wilhelm the city clerk job last year but later rebuffed the offer because Wilhelm "was not black."

Muslim police officers file bias lawsuits

Source: Jon Yates, Chicago Tribune
Date: June 28, 2004

Nail Majid and Mohamed Hyath are suing their respective police departments, claiming discrimination based on the fact they are Muslims and, in Majid's case, also Arab-American. The two cases, along with five other harassment complaints filed with the Justice Department on behalf of federal law enforcement employees, are enough to cause concern, according to civil rights activists and law enforcement officers. They come as Muslims across the nation are making an increasing number of complaints to the Council on American-Islamic Relations and other Arab and Muslim civil rights groups.

Former Playboy editor files age-bias lawsuit

Source: Matt O'Connor, Chicago Tribune
Date: May 20, 2004

A former top editor at Playboy magazine filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday, alleging he was fired after more than 30 years with the publication because of age discrimination. John Rezek alleges that his firing was part of a strategy by Playboy to change to a younger editorial staff as part of its efforts to appeal to younger readers.

CNA Financial Faces Bias Lawsuit

Source: Associated Press, Chicago Business
Date: May 11, 2004

Chicago-based CNA Financial Corp. faces a federal class-action lawsuit for allegedly discriminating against older employees and defrauding more than 400 workers of their severance pay by selling off a unit they used to belonged to. The division, RSKCo, was sold in April 2003. In a release Tuesday, plaintiff law firm Leeds Morelli & Brown contended, "In an effort to avoid paying millions to a group of employees over the age of 40, CNA sold these older employees off like cattle and denied them their earned benefits, which could total over 100 million dollars for the class."

Suit Blames EMT's Firing on Religious Bias

Source: Associated Press, Chicago Sun Times
Date: May 8, 2004

An emergency medical technician fired by an ambulance company for refusing to help drive a woman to an abortion clinic sued the company Friday, claiming religious discrimination. The EMT, Stephanie Adamson, said her Christian beliefs prevented her from helping after she learned that the woman, who had abdominal pain, was to be taken from a Chicago hospital to a clinic for an elective abortion. According to the federal lawsuit, Superior Ambulance Co. of Elmhurst fired Adamson by phone after the incident last August. ''We think it's a fairly straightforward case,'' said Frank Manion, an attorney for the Kentucky-based American Center for Law & Justice, which brought the lawsuit on Adamson's behalf. Manion said that under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal statute that prohibits religious discrimination by private companies, the company had an obligation to at least try to accommodate Adamson.

Supreme Court Allows Workplace Bias Suit

Source: Houston Chronicle
Date: May 4, 2004

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday revived a workplace discrimination suit against R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., the printer of TV Guide and Sports Illustrated magazines, making it easier to file such claims. The court ruled unanimously that laid-off Donnelley workers, invoking a 1991 federal civil rights law, had four years from their dismissal to file the bias claims. The justices unanimously overturned a lower court ruling that set the deadline at two years.

High Court Takes Up Key Pension Case

Source: David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times
Date: April 20, 2004

About three-fourths of today's older workers say they plan to take other work after they retire. And many of them say they plan to retire early, confident that a pension and a second job would allow them to live comfortably. But the Supreme Court took up a case Monday that could decide the rules for millions of early retirees and determine whether they could count on receiving their promised pension benefits if they took a new job in the same industry. The case involves a collision of two provisions of the nation's pension laws. One is the "anti-cutback rule," which bars pension plans from reducing benefits that have already been earned. The other allows multi-employer pension plans to suspend benefits to retirees who take a new job in the same industry.

Museum Hit With Overtime Lawsuit

Source: Ameet Sachdev, Chicago Tribune
Date: April 13, 2004

For years the Art Institute of Chicago has failed to pay overtime to restaurant employees who also worked evening banquet shifts, claims a federal lawsuit here. The alleged violation of federal labor laws came to light after the world-famous museum, looking to save money, hired Bon Appetit Management Co. of California a year ago to manage its food-service operations. The workers, many first-generation immigrants, were moved from the museum's payroll to Bon Appetit's payroll. That is when they learned that they were eligible for overtime pay for working more than 40 hours in a week. Thirteen current and former workers are seeking undisclosed back wages plus punitive damages, according to the suit filed this month. Some of the employees who are part of the suit have worked at the museum since the 1980s.

Female Prison Guards Allege Sexual Harassment

Source: Associated Press, Chicago Tribune
Date: March 5, 2004

Twelve female prison guards primarily at Menard Correctional Center filed a lawsuit Thursday in federal court, claiming their co-workers sexually harassed them over four years and retaliated when they complained, including forcing them to escort inmates unsafely. The 52-page civil suit against the Illinois Department of Corrections seeks unspecified damages for the 12 women, 11 of whom continue to work at Menard, said Courtney Cox, one of the lawyers representing the women. One works at the Tamms "Supermax'' Correctional Center.

IBM Loses Another Round in Pension Case

Source: Associated Press, Fox News
Date: February 18, 2004

IBM Corp. owes back payments -- possibly worth billions of dollars -- to 140,000 older employees who were harmed when the technology giant converted to a new kind of pension plan in the 1990s, a federal judge has ruled. The plaintiffs in the case want IBM to make up for what they lost after the company adopted a "cash balance" pension plan, which pays workers a lump sum when they leave the company. A federal judge had ruled last July that the plan amounted to age discrimination because it unfairly penalized older employees. IBM argued that it shouldn't be forced to make retroactive payments because it could not have foreseen that the judge, G. Patrick Murphy of U.S. District Court in East St. Louis, Ill., would declare the cash balance plan illegal. But in a ruling dated Feb. 12, Murphy wrote that IBM had no justification for claiming it was blindsided by his decision. "The prohibition against age discrimination existed long before the appearance of cash balance plans," Murphy wrote. "All that has changed is IBM's clever, but ineffectual, response to law that it finds too restrictive for its business model."

Chrysler Workers Tell of Hearing Racist Remarks

Source: Abdon M. Pallasch, Chicago Sun Times
Date: January 28, 2004

A DaimlerChrysler financing manager in Chicago used racial slurs against African Americans, according to sworn statements in a federal lawsuit. Other sworn statements taken but not released as of Tuesday reportedly will show that he and other Chrysler officials asked the race of applicants before deciding whether to finance cars. The former Chrysler official, who no longer works for Chrysler, was angry to learn a few years ago that employees got Martin Luther King Day off, according to one sworn statement. "Hey, let's shoot four more and give us the whole week off," the manager said, according to James Schultz, who still works for DaimlerChrysler. "That was the most distasteful thing I ever heard the gentleman say."

Chrysler Execs Tell of Slurs

Source: Rudolph Bush, Chicago Tribune
Date: January 28, 2004

Top officials at DaimlerChrysler's Midwest financial arm often used slurs that maligned African-American employees and customers, according to depositions filed in a lawsuit alleging discriminatory lending practices. The two lengthy depositions, recently unsealed in federal court in Chicago, support car dealer Gerald Gorman's claims that racist attitudes at Chrysler Financial influenced lending policies toward African-Americans as well as his ability to earn a living from dealerships in Midlothian and on Chicago's South Side, according to Gorman.

Fired Hotel Worker's Suit Alleges Discrimination

Source: Ted Gregory, Chicago Tribune
Date: January 27, 2004

A former employee of the Elmhurst Holiday Inn is suing the hotel and its management company contending she was fired from her job as a front desk attendant last year for associating with African-Americans and "talking black." Jennifer M. Pineda, 26, a white woman from Downers Grove, filed her complaint in U.S. District Court in Chicago stating her firing was "intentional, willful, malicious and taken in reckless disregard for the rights of" Pineda and other employees.

Supreme Court to Consider Pension Rights

Source: Anne Gearan (AP), FindLaw Legal News
Date: December 1, 2003

The Supreme Court said Monday it will clarify pension rights for workers who retire early from one job and then go to work doing something else. That situation is especially common in law enforcement, military and other government work, where attractive pension benefits may be available after relatively short careers of 20 years or so. Thus, workers can leave one job while still fairly young, and draw a pension while earning a paycheck in a new field. The court agreed to hear an appeal in the case of two former construction laborers who retired with full pension benefits at age 39. The Illinois men drew their pensions for two years, until their pension fund changed the rules governing who was eligible for the payments. The question for the court centers on protection for workers under federal law. By law, pension plans like the Central Laborers' Pension Fund usually cannot cut back on promised benefits. The fund claims there is an exception in cases like this one, and two federal appeals courts have reached opposite conclusions on the issue.

Xerox Settles Pension Suit With Retirees

Source: Mary Williams Walsh, New York Times
Date: November 15, 2003

The Xerox Corporation said yesterday that it had agreed to settle a lawsuit over the way it calculated pension benefits by paying an additional $239 million to thousands of employees who retired from 1990 to 1999. The proposed settlement, which is contingent on court approval, calls for Xerox to make the payment out of its pension plan for salaried employees. Xerox said it would not have to contribute additional money to the plan to cover the payout until at least 2005.

Restaurants Agree to Pay Disputed Wages

Source: Michael Shaw, St. Louis Post Dispatch
Date: October 28, 2003

Owners of 19 El Rancherito franchises in Illinois, including three in the Metro East [St. Louis] area, have agreed to pay nearly $1 million combined to hundreds of servers, cooks and busboys who were paid below minimum wage or weren't paid overtime wages for working more than 40 hours a week. The tentative agreements reached between restaurant owners and the U.S. Department of Labor have been filed over the past few days in Illinois' federal courthouses. They await approval from U.S. District Court judges.

Mexican Restaurant Chain Owes Back Wages

Source: Associated Press, Atlanta Journal Constitution
Date: October 23, 2003

A Mexican restaurant chain will pay nearly $1 million in back wages for denying workers the minimum wage and overtime pay under a settlement filed Wednesday in federal court. The owners of the Effingham-based El Rancherito agreed to pay $943,455 to more than 300 workers at 19 restaurants in 17 communities after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor. Labor officials said the restaurant chain violated federal law by routinely paying cooks, dish washers, waiters and busboys for 40 hours a week when they worked 60 hours or more.

Judge Dismisses Mitsubishi Worker's Discrimination Suit

Source: Peoria Journal Star
Date: September 13, 2003

U.S. District Judge Michael Mihm ruled George Walker's case against his former employer fails because Walker couldn't present any evidence of discriminatory incidents that occurred after March 2001 - the date the company settled a similar lawsuit. Walker filed suit in U.S. District Court in Peoria in December 2002, alleging the method used by the carmaker to select employees for training on certain types of equipment discriminated against blacks and Hispanics.

Suit Alleges United Refused to Pay Overtime

Source: Bloomberg News, Chicago Tribune
Date: September 4, 2003

United Airlines has been sued by a Chicago woman who claims she and other employees were deprived of overtime pay. Roxane Buss, 40, said the bankrupt carrier compelled her and others to record no more than 40 hours of work a week on time sheets, when they had worked longer hours. The suit, filed in federal court in Chicago, alleged the practice started in December 1999 and continues.

Cash-Balance Pensions Raise Age-Discrimination Questions

Source: Mary Deibel (Scripps Howard), Delaware Online Journal
Date: August 18, 2003

If Kathi Cooper hadn't graduated from the University of Texas with top honors in accounting, she might not have known that IBM's decision to convert its traditional pension to a cash-balance plan would shortchange her retirement by $400,000. "I couldn't believe that cutting our pension payout to benefit younger workers wasn't age discrimination," says Cooper, 53, a 24-year IBM veteran from Bethalto, Ill., who recently won a federal court victory for herself and 130,000 co-workers. Cash-balance plans, adopted to save companies money, are tailored to a mobile work force with portable benefits that accrue evenly over the employee's tenure with each company. Traditional pensions reward longtime employees with most benefits building up during the last, high-paid years.

EEOC Hits Cat with Race, Sex Harassment Suits

Source: Francine Knowles, Chicago Sun Times
Date: August 14, 2003

Peoria-based Caterpillar Inc. was hit with racial and sexual harassment lawsuits by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Wednesday alleging violations by the company at work sites in Joliet and Aurora. The first suit accuses the world's biggest maker of earthmoving machinery of permitting racial harassment of at least three African-American employees who worked at its Joliet plant. The agency alleged that among other things, certain white employees made a practice of whistling at the black workers as if they were dogs. Management refused to act on complaints about the practice, the EEOC said. In the case involving the Aurora plant, the EEOC alleges a supervisor sexually harassed Karon Lambert, who worked there as a safety industrial hygiene supervisor. Other women were also harassed, the agency contends.

Minority Workers Accuse Mitsubishi Of Discrimination

Source: Associated Press, WBBM
Date: August 13, 2003

Seven minority workers have filed a federal lawsuit alleging racial discrimination and harassment at Mitsubishi's auto plant in Normal. The lawsuit also contends Mitsubishi has retaliated against minority workers since it settled another racial discrimination lawsuit involving workers at the plant for $3.2 million in 2001. "Nothing really stopped, and we're sick of it. People want changes, and we're not seeing any changes," said Bobby Fields, one of the workers who filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Peoria.

Ruling Casts Doubt on Pension Change

Source: Kathy M. Kristof, Los Angeles Times
Date: August 10, 2003

With help from a federal judge, Kathi Cooper has thrown a monkey wrench into the world of corporate pensions. In late July, Cooper, a 53-year-old internal auditor at IBM Corp., won a landmark court ruling that could make it tougher for companies to convert their traditional pension plans into so-called cash-balance retirement plans. U.S. District Judge G. Patrick Murphy, ruling in IBM vs. Cooper, found that the computer giant illegally discriminated against older workers when it switched to a cash-balance plan in the 1990s. Murphy hasn't yet ruled on damages or indicated what changes he may order IBM to make in its pension plan. But the decision already is having far-reaching effects.

Age Discrimination Suit Filed Against Bus Service

Source: Chicago Tribune
Date: August 1, 2003

A federal lawsuit filed Thursday by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accuses a Chicago school bus company of age discrimination for firing two 75-year-old drivers and refusing to hire a 64-year-old applicant last year. Gordon Waldron, senior EEOC trial attorney, said in the suit filed in U.S. District Court that Latino Express Inc. could have fired or refused to hire the men if they had failed driving tests or physical exams, but they did it strictly because of their age.

IBM Loses Closely Watched Pension Lawsuit

Source: Brian Bergstein and Adam Geller (AP), Chicago Tribune
Date: August 1, 2003

IBM Corp. committed age discrimination when it converted to a new kind of pension plan that gained popularity in the 1990s, a federal judge ruled in a closely watched case that affects 140,000 older employees at Big Blue and could ripple across American industry. Judge G. Patrick Murphy of U.S. District Court in East St. Louis, Ill., ruled Thursday that IBM unfairly penalized older workers when it adopted a pension program known as a cash balance plan, in which workers can get a lump sum when they leave the company. IBM and other companies believe cash balance plans are more attractive to a younger generation of workers who are more likely to change jobs during their careers. But older workers contend that the plans cut their expected benefits by as much as half.

Judge Says I.B.M. Pension Shift Illegally Harmed Older Workers

Source: Mary Williams Walsh, New York Times
Date: August 1, 2003

A federal court ruled yesterday that I.B.M. violated age discrimination laws in the way it changed its traditional pension plan in the 1990's.The decision could cast doubt over similar changes hundreds of companies have made in plans covering millions of workers, and I.B.M. said it would appeal. Judge G. Patrick Murphy of Federal District Court in the Southern District of Illinois ruled that I.B.M. had discriminated against its older workers in several ways when it converted its pension plan because the changes would leave them with smaller benefits at retirement than younger workers would have when they eventually retired.

Illinois Court Drops Order to Raise Judges' Pay

Source: Jodi Wilgoren, New York Times
Date: August 1, 2003

The Illinois Supreme Court vacated today its order that the state give its judges cost-of-living increases, leaving a trial court to decide the issue instead. The court also dropped its demand that Daniel W. Hynes, the state comptroller, defend himself against a possible contempt charge for failing to administer the increases. This afternoon, paychecks with the lower salaries were sent. The Supreme Court ruling defuses the controversy that had been mounting for a week between the judicial and executive branches of state government, though it does not resolve the underlying question of whether the 900 judges in the state will be given a 2.8 percent raise. That would add about $4,000 to the seven Supreme Court justices' $158,000 salaries. Other judges earn more than $127,000.

Ill. Judges Fight For Pay Raises

Source: Phoung Le (AP), FindLaw Legal News
Date: July 31, 2003

Illinois judges have taken their fight for cost-of-living raises vetoed by the governor to familiar turf: the courtroom. The state Supreme Court has ordered Comptroller Daniel Hynes to give the judges a 2.8 percent raise despite the governor's veto. It argued that while the veto removed funding, it did not change the law obligating the state to pay them.

Woodward Sued Over Race Bias

Source: Elizabeth Nendick, Rockford Registar Star
Date: July 23, 2003

Sixteen former and current Woodward Governor employees have filed a class-action racial discrimination lawsuit seeking more than $1 million from the manufacturer. The 19-page complaint, filed May 8 in U.S. District Court in Rockford, alleges Woodward Governor does not pay or promote minorities as much as their white counterparts. ?One of the red flags is how the company is doing at hiring and promoting minorities,? said lawyer Jennifer Soule, who represents the one Asian, one Hispanic and 14 black workers in in the class.

Age-Bias Claim Tested in IBM Pension Case

Source: Gannett News Service, Rockford Register Star
Date: July 13, 2003

A federal judge is expected to rule this summer on whether two pension plan changes IBM made in the 1990s discriminated against Kathi Cooper and 140,000 other U.S. employees. Cooper, the 52-year-old lead plaintiff, stands to receive an annual pension of $21,475 under the first of the two disputed pension plans, which were instituted in December 1994 and July 1999. But she would get slightly more, $21,666, if she were a year younger, and $22,221 if she were five years younger ? even with no change in the number of years she worked for the company, according to her lawyers.

Waitress Forced To Quit Because Sexual Harrassment 'was part of the job'; EEOC Sues Restaurant In Midwest

Source: EEOC.gov
Date: July 1, 2003

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in federal court against Heart of America Management Co., which does business locally as the Machine Shed Restaurant. EEOC said that its administrative investigation which preceded the lawsuit revealed that the harassment, which was carried out by a male server and observed by other employees, involved almost daily propositions and explicit sexual remarks which were graphic and offensive in the extreme, as well as the man physically grabbing the woman. At one point, while at work at the Machine Shed and in front of other servers, the man recounted a dream he claimed to have had in which he and the server were having sex. After the server married, the man escalated his harassment, told her "I can do a better job . . . than your husband," and graphically described his sexual desires.

Former Des Plaines Worker Loses Discrimination Suit

Source: Amy McLaughlin , Daily Herald (IL)
Date: June 12, 2003

A federal judge has upheld Des Plaines' decision to fire a former civil engineer, rejecting her claim that the city discriminated against her because she is Jewish and a woman. A federal judge has upheld Des Plaines' decision to fire a former civil engineer, rejecting her claim that the city discriminated against her because she is Jewish and a woman. In a decision dated June 6, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer said there's not enough evidence that Tamara Baucom was fired because of her gender or religion to bring the lawsuit to trial. Pallmeyer granted the city's request for a summary judgment, essentially dismissing the civil case before trial.

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