By: Anthony J. Caruso, Esq.
An employee advises their employer that they have a court order of protection against their estranged significant other to prevent violence against themselves. Is it okay under Illinois law for the employer to terminate the employee to prevent violence in the workplace? Is the employee entitled to a change in work hours or additional security measures at work? All of these and other questions can be answered under Illinois employment law.
Many employers are not aware that under the Illinois Human Rights Act, effective January 1, 2010, Illinois employers with 15 or more employees cannot unlawfully discriminate against nor retaliate against an employee with an order of protection status. Thus, an employee's termination based only upon their status of an order of protection is clearly illegal under Illinois law. The employer must have a legitimate business reason unrelated to the order of protection for a lawful termination of the employee.
Also, the employee, as a victim of domestic abuse (as evidenced by the order of protection), may be entitled to additional rights under the Illinois Victims' Economic Safety and Security Act (VESSA) which applies to Illinois employers with 15 or more employees. Under that law, the employer may be required to reasonably accommodate the employee with a leave of absence, flexible work schedule, and additional security measures at work.
BEST PRACTICE TIPS FOR EMPLOYERS
a. Get a copy of the Order of Protection from Employee. This action verifies and documents the order of protection status of the employee along with rights and entitlement under VESSA.
b. Have the Employee Identify the Individual that the Order of Protection is Against. The individual's name, address, and picture should be furnished by the employee to the employer.
c. Alert the Receptionist, Security, and Co-Workers about the Individual. Advise them that the individual is not a welcome guest on the company premises and parking lot; but rather, a trespasser. Provide a picture and name. Employer should not mention the order of protection. If the individual should appear, the police should be called immediately. Also, employer should not disclose to any telephone callers as to what employees are working on a given day and their work schedule.
d. Consult with the Employee Under the Order of Protection. Employer should assess the situation with the employee to determine what reasonable measures the employer can provide to protect the employee and the co-workers. Such measures could include leave of absence, flexible work shift, additional security (i.e., locks, security guard, lights in parking lot, and escort to and from car). Document (in writing) this meeting with the employee and continue to monitor the situation.
The above tips will assist the employer in preventing violence in the workplace along with protecting all of your employees. Complying with these laws will also help to shield the employer from liability.
If you have any questions or concerns about this topic or any other questions related to employment, please call attorney Anthony J. Caruso of Wessels Sherman's St. Charles, Illinois office at (630) 377-1554 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.