Unemployment Appeal Hearing

September 17, 2009

Jensen Law Office, LLC recently was successful in reversing a local Unemployment office’s decision to deny benefits due to alleged misconduct at a recent Unemployment Appeal hearing.  If you have been wrongfully denied your unemployment benefits, contact Jensen Law Office, LLC to discuss your situation.


Unpaid Wages and Overtime

September 8, 2009

In Illinois, all non-exempt hourly employees must earn at least the minimum wage, and must be paid time and a half (“overtime”) for all hours in excess of forty per work week.  Minimum wage and overtime are governed by a number of state and federal statutes, including the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (“IWPCA”), Illinois Minimum Wage Law (“IMWL”), and Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).

The FLSA contains provisions setting the federal minimum wage.  Effective July 24, 2009, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.  The IMWL contains provisions setting the state minimum wage for Illinois, currently at $8.00 per hour.  If both the FLSA and the IMWL apply to an employee, the employee is entitled to earn the higher of the minimum wages set forth in the statutes.

The FLSA and IMWL each contain overtime provisions which mandate that non-exempt hourly employees must be paid time and a half for all hours worked in excess of forty hours in one work week.  An employee must be compensated for all time worked.  However, certain workers, particularly salaried employees, may be exempt from these overtime provisions.

The IWPCA mandates that employers in Illinois must pay each employee for all time that the employee worked, within two weeks of the end of the period in which the wages were earned.  The IWPCA further regulates final compensation upon the end of employment, and makes it unlawful for any employer to deduct wages from an employee’s paycheck without the written consent of the employee

Any non-exempt employee that has not been paid the appropriate wage for their time at work, or has not been paid for their overtime can pursue recovery of those amounts, attorney’s fees, and statutory penalties including liquidated damages.  Should you feel that you have not been paid the appropriate wages for the hours that you have worked, or should you feel that you have not received all your compensation in a timely manner, please contact Jensen Law Office, LLC to fully discuss your rights and your status under the above acts.


Family and Medical Leave Act

September 8, 2009

The Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. (“FMLA”) provides that eligible employees may take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave during any twelve-month period, for any of four general reasons:

  1. For the birth and care of a newborn child;
  2. Adoption placement;
  3. Care for an immediate family member (spouse, parent, or child) with a serious health condition; or
  4. To take medical leave because the employee is unable to work due to a serious health condition.

Under the FMLA, soldiers who are about to be deployed, veterans, and designated family of those individuals have additional rights.

While not all employees are eligible for FMLA coverage, an employer cannot interfere with an eligible employee’s FMLA rights, or to deny an employee properly requested FMLA leave.  Further, employers are required to notify or inform employees of their FMLA rights if the employer has notice of a condition that may qualify an eligible employee for leave.  Upon return from leave, eligible employees must be reinstated to the same or an equivalent position and cannot be retaliated against for the exercise of their FMLA rights.

If you feel that you have been denied one of your rights under the FMLA, please contact Jensen Law Office, LLC to discuss your situation.


Retaliation

September 8, 2009

When you complain to your supervisor, your manager, the Human Resources Department of your employer, or a state or federal law enforcement or governmental agency regarding conditions at your place of work that you reasonably believe are violations of state or federal regulations or laws, and you are retaliated against for those complaints, your rights may have been violated.  You might have a “retaliation” claim.  Typically, acts of retaliation will include adverse employment actions including but not limited to termination, demotion, write-ups, suspensions, increased scrutiny, and pay cuts.

In Illinois, under the Illinois Whistleblower Act, there is protection for employees that suffer retaliation based on an employee’s disclosure of information to a state or federal governmental agency, where there is reasonable belief that the provided information reveals a violation of state or federal laws, rules, or regulations.  Further, the Illinois Whistleblower Act provides that an employer cannot retaliate against an employee that refuses to participate in an activity that the employee feels would result in a violation of state or federal law.  Finally, Illinois also has a cause of action for a “retaliatory discharge” where an employee who is terminated because of their internal complaint to their employer of a policy or practices that is a violation of a state or federal law, rule or regulation can be protected and recover for their job loss.

In addition, many of the employment laws, including the FLSA, FMLA, Title VII, and Section 1981, contain anti-retaliation provisions.  Under these provisions, it is unlawful to take an adverse employment action against an employee who opposes behavior made unlawful under the statute, or participates in any type of proceeding relating to a claim under the statute.

If you notice a change in your employment conditions after complaining to a government agency or refusing to perform an illegal activity, contact Jensen Law Office, LLC to discuss your situation.  Further, if you think that you have been retaliated against, or if you have opposed an illegal practice under various employment laws regarding harassment, discrimination, payment of wages and overtime, or medical leave, contact Jensen Law Office, LLC .

Additionally, under the Illinois Worker’s Compensation statute, it is “unlawful for any employer to coerce or discriminate against, harass, refuse to rehire or recall, fire or threaten to fire or force to resign” any worker in retaliation for filing a Workers’ Compensation claim.  Should your employer begin to treat you differently or terminate you either after filing a worker’s compensation claim or in response to filing a worker’s compensation claim, you should contact Jensen Law Office, LLC to review your situation and to discuss your legal rights.


Severance Review

September 8, 2009

When your employment has ended, an Employer may choose to offer a severance package.  Employers are not generally required to offer their employees severance upon termination of the employment relationship.  However, employers will often consider the circumstances on a case-by-case basis to determine if they will offer any type of severance pay and may consider a number of factors.  Some reasons that an employer can choose to offer severance pay can be as a gesture of good will, or as an insurance policy against the possibility of future legal claims by the employee.

Generally, severance agreements compensate employees at the end of their employment relationship with the employer, and can provide some financial stability during the employee’s transition from the company.  Often, in exchange for this compensation, severance agreements will contain language which releases the employer from legal liability stemming from the employment relationship and may even impose new obligations on the former employee, including things like a promise to not re-apply, to maintain confidentiality of the information at the employer, or to refrain from certain work or activities.  Like an employment contract, each party has rights and the agreement can be enforced in court, often for damages as specified in the release.

If you have received a severance agreement from your employer and wish to have it reviewed, contact Jensen Law Office, LLC to arrange a meeting to discuss your employment history, the circumstances of your departure and review the severance document for the legal rights and claims that you are releasing.


Employment Contracts

September 8, 2009

Employment in Illinois is considered “at-will,” which generally means that either the employer or the employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time, without any warning, for any reason or no reason at all, as long as the employer’s action is not prohibited by state or federal law.  The state and federal laws prohibiting the termination of an employment relationship include laws prohibiting discrimination based on the employee’s membership in a protected class, or prohibiting retaliation for the employee’s engagement in protected activity.

Additionally, the employer and employee may enter into a binding contract to better define the terms of their relationship, and neither the employer nor the employee can end that contractual relationship outside of the methods discussed in the employment contract.  Most commonly, Unions will enter into contracts on behalf of employees to provide protection for the employee’s working conditions.  Contracts typically require an ending point or termination date, but may have automatic renewal provisions.  Typically employment contracts define the terms and conditions of employment, like: pay rate, hours, duties, benefits, job procedures to be followed, termination requirements, grievance procedures, non-competition agreement, overtime requirements, confidentiality, and many more.  If either the employer or the employee breaks the contract, the other party may be entitled to damages and may end up enforcing the contract in Court.

Should you have questions regarding the existence of an employment contract at your workplace, if you need clarification of the terms in your employment contract, if believe that your employer has violated the terms of your employment contract, or you would like assistance negotiating your employment contract, contact Jensen Law Office, LLC to speak to one of our attorneys.


Unemployment Appeals

September 8, 2009

In Illinois, employees are eligible to receive unemployment benefits if they are out of work or suffer a significant decrease of hours through no fault of their own.  While each situation is unique, and can vary based on the involved facts, typically if you are fired or laid off by your employer, you will be eligible for benefits unless you are accused of misconduct.  Even if you quit or resign, you may be eligible for benefits, depending on the facts of your situation.

Initially, discharged employees file unemployment at their local office and receive a determination from a local investigator.  However, once the local office has rendered their decision, it is not always final.  The party that was ruled against (an employee that was denied benefits or an employer that was required to pay benefits) can appeal the decision to a hearing officer.  If you lose an appeal of benefits that you have already started to receive, you may be required to repayment those benefits to the state.

The attorneys from Jensen Law Office, LLC represent those people going through the appeal process by assisting in their preparation for the appeal hearing, identifying and interviewing witnesses as needed, reviewing documentation, and providing legal counsel through the appeal hearing and any further proceedings.  Please contact Jensen Law Office, LLC as early in the appeal process as possible to allow for preparation time for these court-like hearings.