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Civil Rights

Civil Rights

From a very young age, we were all taught this country was founded fighting for personal liberties. Over the history of this country, defining civil rights has grown and developed. From the civil rights movement and woman’s suffrage to demanding equal pay in the workplace, the topic of civil rights is still ever present today.

Below we address some of the common areas in which your civil rights are protected:

Police Excessive Force

Discrimination

Gender Discrimination

Sexual Harassment

Sexual Assaults

Illinois Domestic Violence Act

Police use of force is a hot topic. The question is how much force should a police officer use in order to affect an arrest, or protect the safety of themselves and others?

The law is clear: A police officer may only use deadly force when either the officer or others are believed to be an immediate danger. The use of deadly force is justified only under conditions of extreme necessity as a last resort, when all lesser means have failed or cannot reasonably be employed.

In order to determine whether excessive force was used, a court looks at the following factors: the need for an application of force, the relationship between that need and the force applied, the threat reason ably perceived by the responsible officers, the efforts made to temper the severity of the force employed, and the extent of the injury suffered by the prisoner.

Furthermore, an officer may not “RECKLESSLY and ACCIDENTALLY” injure another. A police officer must execute his duties professionally. If a police officer recklessly discharges his weapon and injures another, he may be held civilly liable for that conduct.

Every person is entitled to equal treatment. Your employer, the state, or any governmental agency may not treat you differently because of your age, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees on the basis of race or color. An employer may not take your race or color into account when making employment decisions.

To bring a claim, there must be evidence that you are treated differently than someone similarly situated because of your age, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation. “Similarly situated” means that in all material aspects you and that individual are alike – in education, background, performance evaluations, trainings, years of experience, etc.

In the workplace, discrimination is often evidence if you are repeatedly disciplined, passed over for a promotion, denied equal pay, fired, or not hired. In addition, discrimination can be evidenced by direct conduct or statements. Stereotyping is never proper. For example, it is improper for any employer to deny a promotion, because “she might become pregnant” or “our clients are upper class executives, who cannot relate to someone with his background.” If you believe your employer is discriminating against you or harassing you, you should report it to their supervisor.

Discrimination can also be seen in government. If the state or governmental agency is treating you differently, because of your age, race, religion, or sex, they are denying you equal protection under the law.

Employers may disguise their racially discriminatory practices under the guise of intelligence tests, dress codes, English language only requirements, criminal records, and other racial stereotypes. Racial discrimination can also include harassment in the form of racial jokes by coworkers.

Federal law prohibits offensive conduct, such as racial or ethnic slurs, racial “jokes,” derogatory comments, or other verbal or physical conduct based on an individual’s race/color. The conduct has to be unwelcome and offensive, and has to be severe or pervasive. Employers are required to take appropriate steps to prevent and correct unlawful harassment.

Compensation and Other Employment Terms, Conditions, and Privileges Federal Law prohibits discrimination in compensation and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. Therefore, race or color discrimination may not be the basis for differences in pay or benefits, work assignments, performance evaluations, training, discipline or discharge, or any other area of employment.

Title VII protects individuals of ALL races, not just ethnic minorities. Title VII also protects employees who have been retaliated against for complaining about discrimination or participating in someone else’s discrimination case. Remedies for racial discrimination can include: front and back pay, reinstatement, compensatory damages, emotional distress, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees.

If you think you have been discriminated against because of your race or color, take immediate action as you only have 180 days to file from the last date of discrimination. Contact Our Employment Lawyers. If you have been discriminated against on the basis of your race, contact the Dinizulu Law Group, Ltd., for a confidential consultation.

Gender Discrimination

Title VII prohibits gender discrimination, which occurs when an applicant or employee is treated unfavorably because of that person’s sex. A person’s gender cannot play a role in any aspect of employment, including hiring, salary, promotions, job assignments, fringe benefits, transfers, disciplinary action, suspensions and termination. Additionally, gender discrimination can involve being treated less favorably because of his or her connection with an organization or group that is generally associated with people of a certain sex.

An employment policy or practice that applies to everyone, regardless of gender, can be illegal if it has a negative impact on the employment of people of a certain gender and is not job-related or necessary to the operation of the business. Title VII prohibits discrimination against men and women and allows claim no matter what gender the employer/employee is. This allows for an individual to have a claim if the employee and the employer are both of the same gender.

Additionally, Congress has passed anti-discrimination laws to protect pregnant women in the workplace. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act does not entitle pregnant women to special treatment, but it does enforce pregnant women being treated equally to non-pregnant individuals. The Family and Medical Leave Act also allows employees certain rights if you need a leave of absence for your pregnancy, the birth of your child, or for other serious injuries to you or members of your immediate family.

Gender discrimination also includes sexual harassment – unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. For more information about sexual harassment, see our sexual harassment page.

Sexual harassment is barred by Title VII, a federal law that prohibits several forms of discrimination or harassment and it protects individuals from being subjected to such offenses. Discrimination can be of race, nationality, color, disability, age and sexuality, and Title VII applies to both private and public employers with 15 or more employees. This includes local, state and federal governments, labor organizations and employment agencies.

Sexual harassment is classified into two basic forms: hostile work environment and quid pro quo.

Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment

Hostile work environment is a form sexual harassment based on sex and it subjects an employee to explicit or implicit conduct of a sexual nature. It can be verbal or physical and it unreasonably interferes with an individual’s employment and work performance by creating a hostile, offensive, or intimidating work environment. Examples of a hostile work environment are unwelcomed sexual advances, posting pictures with sexual content, and allowing/tolerating behaviors that are sexually suggestive.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

Quid pro quo is a reciprocal form of sexual harassment. It requires an employee to succumb to unwelcome sexual conduct. For example, requesting sex, in exchange for anything related to employment, such as threatening to alter the terms of employment, including any tangible benefits, a promotion or requirement to maintain an individual’s current position. One example where a superior would be at fault for quid pro quo sexual harassment is if he or she tells you that you will not be considered for a promotion unless you have sex with him or her.

Criteria for Legal Violation

It is illegal for an employer or person at fault for harassment to carry out any form of retaliation against an employee/ complaining party for making a complaint or seeking legal action for sexual harassment. In addition, there are three general criteria that must be met for the sexually harassing behavior to be considered a violation of the law.

First, the complaining party/ employee must show that the behavior was offensive, unwelcome and sufficiently severe or pervasive. These criteria would not be met in instances where the complaining party participated in creating the hostile work environment, such as telling a dirty joke, or evidence can prove that he or she was engaged in a consensual relationship with a co-worker with whom he or she claims quid pro quo sexual harassment.

The second requirement is that the complaining party/employee show that his or her employer knew or should have reasonably known about the sexual harassment. In cases where the harassment occurred in the presence of a supervisor or is a repeat offense, the complaining party/employee may have not been required to complain about the sexual harassment to recover. The third is to establish that prompt remedial action was not carried out by an employer.

If you are the victim of sexual harassment, contact Chicago Sexual Harassment Attorneys at the Dinizulu Law Group, Ltd. at 312 384-1920.

Making a Sexual Harassment Complaint

There are several guidelines to follow in regards to sexual harassment and the workplace. First, you have a right to maintain a private life separate from your workplace and dating another employee does not permit other employees to harass you. Should you encounter misconduct at the workplace, be sure to object right away and at any time you find the conduct to be offensive or significant. If there is company policy on sexual harassment at your work place, be sure to follow it precisely.

If you are a victim of sexual harassment by a co-worker or supervisor, or even a customer, it is your duty to report the misconduct to Human Resources, a supervisor or other person with authority at your place of work. When making a complaint, be sure to do so in writing whenever possible and keep a copy. Also be sure to make a note of their exact response.

Under some circumstances, such as severe physical or verbal assault or if your employer is involved in the harassment, it may be more appropriate to make your complaint to the police or the EEOC.

Your employer is legally obligated to investigate your allegations and attempt to resolve the issue in a reasonable manner. Be aware that the harasser may not be fired based on the seriousness of the misconduct and if it is his or her first offense. After corrective measures have been made, yet they are not working after a period of time, notify your employer that additional action needs to be taken.

Failure to report that you were harassed by a co-worker will cause you to lose your sexual harassment claim. If your employer fails to nothing in regards to your complaint, it is your right to file sexual harassment charges with the EEOC.

If you think you have been sexually harassed, take immediate action. You have 180 days to file from the last date of discrimination. Contact Our Employment Lawyers now at 312 384-1920.

After you File a Sexual Harassment Complaint

After you file a complaint of sexual harassment, it is not unreasonable to expect a defense from your employer. Your employer may deny knowing anything about the alleged sexual harassment or deny that it ever occurred. He or she may also state that you welcomed the sexual conduct or argue that it was an insignificant incident. In such cases, you may need to show that your employer improperly addressed your complaint. Some examples are if your employer ignored previous complaints made by you or other employees or if your employer showed favor for some employees and made exceptions to the sexual harassment policy. Other examples are if your employer did not distribute a sexual harassment policy – even if it was adopted; hinders or thwarts an employee’s ability to make a complaint or previously retaliated against a complaining party/employee.

Damages You Are Entitled To If You Prove Unlawful Sexual Harassment

If you prove your complaint as unlawful sexual harassment, you may be entitled to damages in several forms. First, you may be granted job reinstatement and injunctive relief at your workplace. Injunctive relief is relief in which a court orders the workplace’s harassment and discrimination policies or practices be stopped and/or new ones implemented. Monetary damages may include compensatory and punitive: the amount necessary to make you feel whole and the amount awarded to you to serve as a punishment and deterrence for the misconduct. You may also be entitled to front pay and back pay, as well as any expenses or fees incurred by hiring an attorney.

Compensatory Damage Limits

$50,000 limit (Employers with 15-100 employees)

$100,000 limit (Employers with 101-200 employees)

$200,000 limit (Employers with 201-500 employees)

$300,000 limit (Employers with more than 500 employees)

*These limits do not apply to the other damages available to you.

If you think you have been sexually harassed, take immediate action as you only have 180 days to file from the last date of discrimination. Contact Our Sexual Harassment Lawyers now at 312 384-1920.

Every woman and man, whether a child or the elderly, has the right to their own bodily integrity. When someone is physically and sexually assaulted, that person’s individual rights have been violated. Sexual assaults can range from impermissible touching to rape. The assailant can be a parent, a child, a friend, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a husband or wife, a teacher, a babysitter, etc. It is never the victims fault – whether the victim was “manipulated” or “drugged”. Impermissible sexual conduct is wrong.

If you have experienced a sexual assault, it is important to know that you have done nothing wrong. It is important to take the following steps:

  • Tell someone, whether your family, school or church. If they do not listen, keep telling someone.
  • Seek medical attention immediately
  • Report it to the police and cooperate with the police

Once you have reported the crime, you have certain rights as a crime victim under Illinois Law, including the timely disposition of your case. If they fail to act with diligence in the investigation of your sexual assault, please give us a call so that we can advise you on the course of action that you may take.

If you have been sexually assaulted, you also have civil remedies, including suing the individual who assaulted you. If the person is a teacher, babysitter, the police, your employer, or a co-worker, the organization who employed them, may also be civilly liable.

Domestic violence is a sensitive and delicate subject. To be abused or assaulted by one’s own family is psychologically and physically harming. Illinois has enacted the Illinois Domestic Violence Act to protect victims. According to the act, the police must take all reasonable steps to protect the victim from further harm. If the police officer failed to protect the victim, the police officer can be civilly liable for the further harm. If you have been a victim of repeated domestic abuse, please give us a call so that we can advise you of your rights under the law.

Call the attorneys at the Dinizulu Law Group, Ltd at 312 384-1920.

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