Know Your Rights: Employment Discrimination

Welcome to the fifth installment of my "Know Your Rights" series. This week I cover employment discrimination.

Much to many people’s surprise, Chicago has a Human Rights Ordinance that prohibits among many other things, employment discrimination. However, it does not have across the board anti-discrimination policies and means of obtaining retribution appear difficult at best. Here is post dedicated to what potential employees can and cannot be discriminated against.

Those hiring cannot discriminate against someone’s:

  1. Race
  2. Color
  3. Sex
  4. Gender identity
  5. Age
  6. Religion
  7. Disability
  8. National origin
  9. Ancestry
  10. Sexual orientation
  11. Marital status
  12. Parental status
  13. Military discharge status*
  14. Source of income.

Seems pretty exhaustive right? Yet, please note the asterisk on number 13 that is where some employment discrimination can happen.
If the military discharge was “unfavorable,” and employment discrimination is authorized by federal law for that “unfavorable” discharge, it is not illegal for an employer to discriminate against a candidate on the basis of the “bad” discharge. Also, if the job position requires the “unfavorably” discharged person to be in charge of money or property for someone else (fiduciary responsibilities), the discrimination against him or her also stands.
Yet, at the same time, it is not illegal to give preferential treatment to veterans AND their relatives according to federal and state law, if the veteran does not have an “unfavorable” discharge. Just how favorable is the treatment? The law doesn’t really go into it in detail, but I would assume that if both candidates are equally qualified, but one is a veteran, that the veteran has the higher chance of getting the job.
They gray area in the employment discrimination law of Chicago is the exclusion of ‘discrimination’ if employers are “hiring or selecting between individuals for bona fide occupational qualification.” A candidate for a position doesn’t really know who else is competing for that job. What if it was two similar resumes but one was from a white person and the other was from a minority, and the white person was hired because they were white, but when the decision was explained to the minority the excuse of a better candidate was used instead? How does the minority job applicant even find out about that? Worse yet, what can he or she do?

If a job candidate feels he or she faced discrimination, he or she can report it to Chicago’s Human Relations Commission, which will then investigate and prepare forms as necessary. The plaintiff is protected by the Commission from retaliation, in any shape or form, by the investigated party.

What’s the corrective measure taken? Well it varies case by case, but the ordinance states that any person in violation of any of the provisions above is subject to a fine from $100-$500 for each offense for every day that offense continues to take place.

This post is not meant to be exhaustive. Please contact the Human Rights Relations Commission for further information if you feel you have faced employment discrimination.

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Read more about your right to privacy as a job candidate here.

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