Employment Law FAQs

Money, power, and an honest days work

Repairing the fences that make good neighbors.



What is employment discrimination?

(Differences can matter.)


Employment discrimination generally refers to laws that make it illegal for employers to make employment decisions based on certain legally protected classifications.  Specifically an employer cannot make employment decisions based on age, race, gender, pregnancy, religion, disability, genetic information, or national origin.  Some states and cities, like Chicago, also protect employees from being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.


Employers don’t have to treat all employees the same, they just can’t treat employees differently because they belong to a legally protected classification of individuals.  Its sometimes difficult for an employee to determine whether an employer has engaged in illegal discrimination or has a legitimate reason for treating employees differently from one another.  Experienced employment discrimination attorneys are often able to recognize the difference more easily than employees.


What is reverse discrimination?

(The laws protect everyone.)


Reverse discrimination is a term that is sometimes used to describe an instance where members of a perceived “majority” experience less favorable treatment than a member of a perceived “minority”.  It originated out of a mistaken belief that employment discrimination laws were designed only to protect specific groups of minorities.    In reality, however, employment discrimination laws protect everyone.  So “reverse discrimination” is really just like all other employment discrimination. It doesn’t matter what race, religion, or gender you may be, employers can’t treat you differently than other employees because of those things.


What should I do if I believe my employer is discriminating against me?

(Quick communication is key.)


If you simply want to end the perceived discrimination, the first thing you should consider is discussing what you are experiencing directly with your employer.  In some situations your employer may not be aware that people in its organization are discriminating against you or others.  In other situations your employer may be reluctant to see the situation as discrimination, but it still may take corrective action to remedy the unfairness of the situation.  In either instance, working with your employer is often the quickest way to resolve discrimination issues.  Though addressing discrimination with an employer can be difficult for some employees, federal law protects employees who complain about discrimination from retaliation by an employer even if the complaint cannot be proven.


You may also want to consider pursuing legal remedies against your employer.  Employment discrimination laws have very strict time limits that limit how long you can wait before filing a discrimination claim.  Because of this, its best to consult an attorney and act quickly when problems arise.  Discrimination laws have complex procedural requirements, which include filing a complaint with an administrative agency like the EEOC or the Illinois Human Rights Commission before you can file a lawsuit in court.  Attorneys can help employees prepare these complaints and help you determine the best way to present your complaint.


What is the EEOC?

(The government likes acronyms)


The EEOC is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  It is a federal agency responsible for investigating and sometime prosecuting employment discrimination claims.  Before filing discrimination in court, an employee must file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.  If the EEOC completes its investigation but decides not to prosecute, it issues a “right to sue” letter, after which an employee has 90 days in which to file a lawsuit.


What should I do if I’ve lost my job because of discrimination?

(Be proactive.)


First, you should consult an attorney immediately.  Second, and just as important, you need to aggressively look for another job. Failing to search for other employment  can weaken your claim.  Sooner or later, most people that lose their jobs because of discrimination need to begin working again.  Those that aggressively search for employment tend to recover from the experience more quickly and completely than others.


What is retaliation?

(A reason to act quickly.)


Employment discrimination laws protect employees who complain about illegal discrimination.  This protection extends not only to employees that are the victims of discrimination, but also to those who witness discrimination occurring to others.  Employees who complain to their employer are protected from receiving unfavorable treatment from an employer because they complained about discrimination or assisted in an investigation.  For this reason, many employees are better off complaining about discrimination while they still have a job rather than waiting for discrimination to worsen.


I am paid on a commission basis.   What commissions am I entitled to receive as part of my final compensation when I terminate my employment?

(Let us look at your contract, agreement., or communications with your employer.)


Commissions are individualized matters.  What may be owed to an employee upon termination of employment is dependent upon the terms of the commission agreement between the employer and the employee.  Generally, an employee is entitled to all commissions that were fully earned before the employment relationship terminated.



My employer fired me.  When does it have to pay me?

(Not when it wants to.)


Under Illinois law, an employer must pay an employee all amounts owed, including wages, commissions, and earned vacation pay, at the time of termination.  If the circumstances surrounding termination make it impossible for an employer to pay an employee that day, then the employee must be paid by the next regularly scheduled payday.