The HR Specialist: Illinois Employment Law

Before the Chicago Bears played the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game, car salesman John Stone wore a Packers necktie to work at Chicago’s Webb Chevrolet. General Manager Jerry Roberts asked Stone to remove the tie. He refused and was fired. When Roberts learned of Stone’s reason for wearing the tie, he offered him his job back. By then Stone had already packed up to move to rival Chevrolet of Homewood.

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Employee theft is a big problem for some employers. Even so, don’t make the mistake of accusing someone unless you have solid evidence he is the culprit. Instead, document your suspicions and consider whether to call police or conduct your own investigation. Then, try to catch the thief in the act.

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If you don’t have a chance to personally observe an employee’s behavior, don’t rely solely on a supervisor’s termination recommendation. Instead, conduct an independent investigation to verify the supervisor’s claim. Otherwise, any employment decision based on that recommendation can be tainted by the supervisor’s hidden bias.

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Be wary of employment tests that seem to have a disparate impact on members of a protected class. You must be ready to show the tests are valid and focus on the real skills required to do a job.

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Employers that bend their disciplinary rules after an employee files a discrimination or harassment complaint almost guarantee they will face a jury if the employee sues. Courts often see such deviations as evidence of retaliation.

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Employees who complain about discrimination or harassment are protected from retaliation. But some of them mistakenly believe that complaining makes them invincible. That’s not true. Employers can discipline any employee who deserves it—including those who have complained—as long as the rules are applied fairly.

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that airport security screeners are not covered by the federal Rehabilitation Act. That means that the TSA doesn’t have to consider disabled applicants or accommodate those who may become disabled while working for the agency as security screeners.

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It’s a fact of life: Unhappy applicants, employees and former employees tend to sue. There’s not much you can do about that. However, you can be prepared to react quickly as soon as you learn of a lawsuit. The key is having complete documentation of all employment decisions.

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Employees who file workers’ compensation claims are protected from retaliation—essentially any change in working conditions that would lead a reasonable employee to rethink her decision to seek benefits. That can include sudden scrutiny of the employee’s work. That’s why HR should look carefully at any increased discipline against those who file workers’ comp claims.

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For most problem employees, deteriorating behavior and performance is a gradual process. Smart employers track the downward trajectory along the way.

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