Your Rights as an Employee

Empower Yourself – Know Your Rights

Your best defense as an employee is knowledge. If you believe that you have suffered discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, you have the right to make a complaint to your employer and to a government agency. But it is sometimes difficult to know whether your employer’s actions are illegal.

The most effective way to learn whether you have been subjected to illegal employment practices is to contact Ed Fox & Associates, Ltd., an experienced and knowledgeable employment discrimination law firm.

Call 312-345-8877 or email us to learn more about your rights.

At Will Employment

Most employees are not protected by a union. If you are not in a union, you are considered an employee “at will.” This means that your employer can terminate, demote, or not promote you for any reason that is not protected under the law. Federal and state laws protect employees from discrimination, retaliation, and harassment. Federal and state laws also guarantee some employees additional rights, including accommodating disabilities and guaranteeing leave for certain medical conditions.


Your employer cannot terminate, demote, not promote, harass, or lay you off based upon your:

  • race
  • gender
  • sex
  • pregnancy
  • national origin
  • color
  • religion
  • age (over the age of 40)
  • disability
  • physical or mental handicap
  • sexual orientation
  • ancestry
  • citizenship status
  • marital status
  • military status; or
  • unfavorable military discharge.

If your employer terminates, demotes, fails to promote, harasses, or lays you off based upon one of the protected categories identified above, you have experienced discrimination. When deciding whether you have been discriminated against, you should look to see how your employer treats you as compared to other employees who are not in the same category as you. If you are being treated worse that employees in a different category, it is possible you are being discriminated against, and you should consult an attorney to learn more about your rights.


Your employer cannot terminate you in retaliation for making a complaint (either to your employer or to a government agency) about discrimination, a discriminatory practice, sexual harassment, failure to accommodate a disability, or failure to accommodate a religion. Contact an attorney to learn how you are protected.

Retaliatory Discharge

Your employer cannot terminate you because you have filed a worker’s compensation claim for an injury that occurred at work. Your employer also cannot terminate you for whistle blower activity (complaining that your employer has broken a law). If you have made such complaints, contact an attorney to learn your rights under Illinois law.

Sexual Harassment

It is illegal for your employer (or supervisor) to require you to perform sexual acts as a pre­requisite for keeping your job, being promoted, or to avoid discipline. It is also illegal for anyone at work to make sexual comments, touch you inappropriately, use sexual innuendo, make sexual jokes, make sexual advances, post sexual images, or e-mail sexual images. If such conduct is present in the workplace and you find it to be offensive, you need to make a complaint to a supervisor and/or the human resources department immediately. Look to your employee handbook for your employer’s established procedures for making such complaints. Also, contact an attorney who has experience in handling sexual harassment claims for further advice.

Reasonable Accommodation

If you are a person with a disability, mental handicap, or physical handicap, your employer must make reasonable accommodations to help you perform your job. If you need a reasonable accommodation, you have an obligation to inform your employer. Once your employer has been informed that you need an accommodation, your employer has a duty to work with you to determine what accommodations can be made. Contact an attorney to determine whether you are covered by these laws and to learn more about the obligations imposed on you and your employer.

Harassment and Hostile Work Environment

You have the right to work in an environment that is free from harassment resulting from your race, gender, sex, national origin, color, religion, age (over the age of 40), disability, physical or mental handicap, sexual orientation, ancestry, citizenship status, marital status, and military status. The courts understand that we live in a hostile and confrontational world; therefore, courts are reluctant to find that an employee has been subjected to a hostile work environment except for egregious circumstances. If you believe you have been subjected to a hostile work environment, contact an experienced lawyer for a truthful evaluation of your claims.

Family Medical Leave Act

If you work for an employer with 50 or more employees, have worked for the employer for at least one year, and have worked for more than 1,200 hours in the past year (there are other additional factors to be considered), you are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for your own or a family member’s serious medical condition or for the birth/adoption of a child. Upon returning to work from leave, you also have the right to be returned to the same, or similar, position you performed prior to your leave. Contact an attorney familiar with the Family Medical Leave Act for a more detailed description of your rights.

Equal Pay Act

You have the right to be paid the same amount of money for the same work as a person of the opposite sex. Contact an attorney for an analysis of your claim.

Call or email Ed Fox & Associates, Ltd. as soon as possible. The firm’s lawyers can evaluate your situation and discuss your legal options with you.In the meantime, remember to preserve evidence of your employer’s wrongful conduct. Visit our What to Do About Employment Discrimination page to learn more.

For a free consultation with Ed Fox & Associates, Ltd., call 312-345-8877 or send an e-mail. The firm represents clients in the greater Chicago, Illinois, area.

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