Involuntarily losing your job is one of life’s most stressful events. Although it may be difficult to think clearly during and after an involuntary job loss, there are a few things you need to do to protect your legal interests and get yourself back on track.
Organize: Make sure to keep all documents your employer has ever given you in an easy to access file. It is vital that you are able to readily locate things such as a termination notice (if you have one), your most recent pay stub, and any information that was given to you about your lay off or termination.
Limit Communications with your Former Employer: If you must communicate with your former employer, keep your communications simple and business-related. Although you may feel emotional about what has happened to you, it is never wise to express your feelings verbally or in writing to your former employer or to former colleagues. Any e-mail communications you make are retained by the company and if you later bring an action against the company, the communications can be used against you.
Verify: Verify that your former employer has paid you all sums that are due to you. Generally, you are entitled to be paid for all hours you have worked for an employer, including proper overtime. If you were a salaried employee, you might want to consider if you may be owed additional compensation. Often-times, employers mistakenly pay certain employees a salary and believe the employee is not entitled to overtime. Depending on your actual job duties, you could be entitled to overtime even if you received a salary. Additionally, you may be entitled to payment of accrued but unused vacation time.
What Are You Signing? Carefully review everything you have been asked to sign. You are not required to sign any documents in order to be paid what you are owed. However, if your employer offers you a severance package, you will be required to sign an agreement and waiver. This is a very important legal document and you should have an attorney review it before you sign it.
File for Unemployment: In Illinois, you can apply for unemployment benefits with the Illinois Dept. of Employment Security (IDES) online at www.ides.state.il.us. You are entitled to unemployment insurance benefits if you lost your job through no fault of your own. This means that even if you were fired for alleged cause or you quit for various reasons, you should file for unemployment. If your application for unemployment benefits is denied by IDES you must appeal the denial within the amount of time allotted on the letter of denial that you receive. You will then be entitled to a hearing on your case where each side will get to present their evidence to a hearing officer.
Continuation of Health Insurance: Federal and state law both provide for continuation of your health insurance benefits depending upon the size of your employer. Your employer is required, by law, to provide you with information regarding continuation of your health insurance benefits.
401K and Retirement Account Rollover: Carefully review what steps you need to take to rollover your retirement accounts.
Return your Former Employer’s Property: If you are in possession of your former employer’s property, you should promptly return it. Additionally, you should be aware that certain things such as customer lists and knowledge about your employer’s business practices could be considered the intellectual property of your former employer. That means, you could be in violation of law if you divulge this information to others or use it for your benefit.
Exploring the Real Reason you were Discharged: An employer in Illinois can terminate an employee for any reason or no reason unless the termination violates a law or a contract. In Illinois, it is unlawful for an employer to terminate an employee because of: sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, gender identity, color, race, national origin, religion, age (over 40), disability, genetic information, or because that employee engaged in protected activity such as taking leave for a serious illness or filing a worker’s compensation claim. Often times, employees are not terminated because of discriminatory bias but for business-reasons. Speaking with an experienced employment attorney will help you determine if you termination was unlawful.
Applying for a New Job: It is never recommended that you lie about the reason for separation from your former employer. Employees mistakenly believe that former employers are only permitted, by law, to release dates of employment, title held, and salary. This is not true. Your former employer is permitted to provide a prospective employer truthful information which could include the reason you are no longer with the company. If the information provided is false, however, and you have been denied a job because of it, you can bring an action for defamation against the former employer.
What is Discrimination?
In Illinois, it is illegal to discriminate against someone in the workplace because of that person’s color, race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, disability, age, religion, and military status. Defining discrimination is difficult and requires careful analysis of the specific facts of your situation. For example, if you are muslim and you are terminated, this alone is not discrimination. Or, if you are gay and you are harassed at work this, alone, is not discrimination. The adverse aciton taken against you must be because of your status as a muslim or a gay person.
If you believe you have been subject to unlawful discrimination and/or harassment in the workplace, you could lose the right to file a court action if you wait too long. We are always happy to speak with you, free of charge, to help you determine if filing a charge of discrimination is right for your situation.
Wage & Payment Issues
The Obama administration has promised an uptick in DOL enforcement actions against employers who violate various laws that govern payment of wages, record-keeping, and child labor.
We have been receiving calls from employees who have not been paid for working during lunch, are not being paid overtime, or are not being paid for work they perform from home. These activties are in violation of federal and Illinois law. We would like to hear from you if you believe you have not been properly paid.
It is not our intent to be unfair to employers. We believe most employers do the right thing and pay their employees according to legal requirements. In fact, we routinely represent such employers with very successful results.
However, there are bad apples in the bunch and it is those bad-apple employers that drag down the good ones by bringing industry-wide DOL enforcement attention to their doors. Non-compliance with legal requirements in the area of wages and child labor laws allows certain employers to unfairly compete with companies who pay their employees lawfully and fairly.
For example, receiving a salary does not necessarily mean that an employee is not entitled to overtime. Additionally, an employee might be entitled to payment for certain periods where the employer typically does not pay the employee such as time lost in time clock rounding, time not paid when on call or working from home, time not paid when changing into and out of uniforms.
If you believe your employer or a competitor is violating laws regulating proper payment of wages, child labor laws, or hiring undocumented workers, please complete our contact form. We will contact you within 1 business day of submission of your contact form.
Social Media Guidelines for Employees
The use of social media as legal evidence is a growing trend. Lawyers are increasingly scouring the internet and social media websites for comments, photos, videos and other information that can discredit or reflect badly for the other side.
Do you have blogs, personal websites, or accounts on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Google+, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, LinkedIn, Foursquare or Meetup? If so, here are some social media dos and don’ts to keep in mind during your case:
Remember That What You Post on the Internet Can (And Will) Be Used Against You. If you have a pending case, you can count on the fact that the other side is searching the internet for any information it can find to harm your case.
Use the Most Restrictive Privacy Settings Possible. Review the privacy settings on all your social networking profiles to ensure that only people you trust can see your personal information, posts, photos and videos. Update your privacy settings every three months.
Keep In Mind That the Internet Is a Public Place. Social media accounts can be hacked, and even the most stringent privacy settings do not keep the people you friend from sharing your posts and information on their own pages or elsewhere.
Consider Everything You Post a Permanent Record. Much of what you post on the internet is permanently recorded somewhere. Facebook keeps all of your information even if you close your account, and search engines such as the Internet Archive Wayback Machine can find old webpages that have been altered or deleted.
Think About Quitting or Limiting All Social Media During Your Case. By doing so, you can avoid a lot of unnecessary risk or compromising your case, or having courts and lawyers scrutinize your private life.
Post Anything on the Internet about Your Case, Your Incident or Your Injuries. Also ask your family and friends not to discuss your case on the internet, either on your page or theirs.
Use Social Networking Messaging Platforms to Discuss Your Case. Sometimes even private messages can be shared by your friends or discovered by the other side.
Friend Anyone You Do Not Know Personally. Sometimes unethical lawyers or investigators may try to access your webpage under a false name. Make sure you know a person before allowing them to access your website, blog or profile.
Comment on News Articles or Blog Posts about Your Case. Even if you make comments “anonymously” or with a different usename or email, in some cases your comments may still be traced back to you.