The fight for workers’ rights in the United States has been a long but successful road, leading to important legislation outlawing discrimination by employers. However, it is still common for companies to mistreat or fire employees on illegal grounds. When this happens to you, you can rely on the Illinois employment discrimination lawyers at Wanta Thome to supply the powerful legal representation you need.

Our employee rights attorneys are focused on assisting those who need help understanding the laws surrounding discrimination on the basis of age, gender, nationality, and other factors. We offer guidance from lawyers who are committed to using their knowledge, training, and experience to passionately champion workers when they are wronged. 

What Is Workplace Discrimination?

Workplace discrimination occurs when someone at work is treated differently or less favorably due to protected criteria. It can start even before someone is hired, such as when the candidate review process discards individuals based on conscious or unconscious biases. The discrimination does not have to come directly from managers or supervisors. Often, it occurs when these company representatives do nothing to stop the behavior of fellow employees.

Discrimination can take the form of being passed over for promotions or pay raises, being excluded from projects or social events, being accused of stealing, or suffering a hostile work environment. Some businesses may dismiss an employee’s claims of discrimination by saying the actions are just “company culture.” However, a culture that encourages or fails to respond to unfair and illegal treatment is never acceptable. 

There are numerous laws and agencies focused on ensuring that employment discrimination is identified and addressed. Our job discrimination lawyers in Illinois can explain how both state and federal laws may apply to your case. We believe in educating our clients so they are confident in holding their employers accountable for unfair treatment.

Examples of Workplace Discrimination Covered by Law

Despite the many laws in place to prevent discrimination, it still occurs frequently. It may be challenging to identify specific actions that have been taken against you, yet you feel that you are being treated unfairly. When a company culture encourages silence, hostility, or “going along to get along,” discriminatory behaviors can be swept under the rug.

This is particularly true for sexual harassment, unequal pay, and racial discrimination. Some examples of situations where a client likely has a valid claim include:

  • You discuss salaries during a lunch break with fellow employees and are later reprimanded by your supervisor, who tells you it is illegal to talk about pay (it is not).
  • A manager asks you to pick up extra work, saying another employee is “wasting time praying” by observing their religious practices. 
  • Your manager becomes aware you are pregnant and removes you from a significant project you have been leading for months, stating, “You won’t be interested in this after you have your baby.”
  • You uncover evidence that bonuses, pay raises, and other benefits are being awarded to only certain employees based on their age, sex, religion, or skin color, while others do not receive these benefits. 

Federal and state laws prohibit unfair treatment and retaliation through discriminatory actions like these. Employers also cannot demote, fire, or otherwise punish you for reporting workplace discrimination. However, it is important to remember that reporting these actions to your Human Resources (HR) group may not solve the problem. HR works for the company’s benefit, which may not always align with the employee’s needs. In these instances, it is best to discuss your case with the workplace discrimination lawyers at Wanta Thome.

Empowering You with Expert Legal Support

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is tasked with enforcing anti-discrimination laws and fielding complaints. They support employees who feel they have experienced discriminatory practices as members of any of the following protected classes:

  • Age (40 and older)
  • Assigned sex
  • Disability
  • Gender identity
  • Genetic information
  • National origins
  • Pregnancy status
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • Skin color

Unfair treatment can include being treated differently, being harassed, or being intimidated by other employees on the basis of your protected status. It can also involve asking inadmissible questions about your medical history or status, whether you have or plan to have children or your immigration status. Discrimination also occurs when co-workers or managers refuse to make reasonable accommodations for your disability or religious beliefs. 
Before initiating a workplace discrimination lawsuit against your employer, you must first file a complaint with the EEOC. Although you can complete the form on your own, it is advisable to engage the help of an experienced employment discrimination attorney to ensure your case is presented as persuasively as possible. There may be terms that are unfamiliar to you or documentation you need help gathering. Your lawyer can assist with these and other tasks.

The Illinois Department of Human Rights

The Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) enforces state laws that provide even stronger protections for employers than the EEOC. These laws go further to include smaller companies with fewer employees to ensure that as many workers are covered as possible. For example, for claims concerning sexual harassment or pregnancy discrimination, companies need only have one employee to be subject to legal action.

To file a claim with the IDHR, individuals should work with a workplace discrimination attorney to complete the form within 300 days of the alleged unfair act. If your complaint is related to housing discrimination, you have 365 days to file the form. You do not need to file a claim with both the IDHR and the EEOC, since the agencies cooperate to respond to complaints.

Federal Laws Addressing Job Discrimination

The EEOC enforces numerous federal laws that have been implemented over many decades of social change. These laws attempt to right the wrongs that occur in the workplace and provide support for employment discrimination lawsuits. Some of the most important include:

  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (1967): This act protects employees age 40 and older from hiring, compensation, promotion, and work privilege discrimination. 
  • Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): This act prohibits disability discrimination for any company with 15 or more employees. It requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for workers who request them, including parking, service animals, and facilities.
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964: The definitive legislation on racial discrimination, the act outlaws segregation and unfair treatment in any public space based on a person’s race. This includes workplaces, swimming pools, schools, restaurants, and theatres. Under this act, employees cannot be treated differently based on skin color or national origin. 
  • Equal Pay Act (1963): This law amends the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to protect employees of any sex against wage discrimination, including regular pay, overtime, holiday pay, bonuses, vacation, and fringe benefits. 
  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA): This law requires employers to provide unpaid leave for employees to care for themselves or family members. Workers also have guarantees against losing their rank or position while on leave, although they may still be at risk for termination on other legal grounds. 
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act (1978): This amendment to the Civil Rights Act prohibits companies from discriminating or retaliating against pregnant employees, those who have given birth, or for any related medical condition. There can be no written or unwritten policy, including company culture, that results in unfair treatment for those who take leave while pregnant or following childbirth.  
  • Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA): This law protects veterans of the Vietnam War from discrimination but also extends to any serviceperson who served, is recently separated from the military, or is disabled as a result of their service. 

The Illinois Human Rights Act

In Illinois, you have additional protection against discrimination through the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA). In addition to outlawing unfair employment practices, it provides governance about discrimination from banks and creditors, housing authorities and landlords, and sexual harassment. The act even goes beyond the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for disabled employees.

Specifically, IHRA defines a disability as a “determinable mental or physical characteristic of a person” and does not require that the disability significantly limit the person’s life. Another important aspect of the law is language that holds any employees or managers who fail to act against discrimination accountable. In other words, it is not enough simply to not engage in unfair treatment. Workers are expected to act if they are aware of discrimination. 

Federal law provides established protections for standard categories of race, skin color, religion, and others protected by federal law. The IHRA goes further to prohibit discrimination in the workplace against those who have an arrest record or order or protection against them, are victims of domestic violence, or lack a permanent mailing address. Illinois also requires any employer with four or more employees to provide equal pay.

Why You Should Choose Us as Your Workplace Discrimination Lawyers

If you believe you have been treated unfairly under federal or state law, you may question whether it is worth the time to take action. Speaking with a job discrimination attorney can help you make a well-informed decision about your next steps. At Wanta Thome, we are committed to supporting those who face illegal action in the workplace, so we offer free initial consultations.

A free review means you can ask questions, get answers, and have a clearer view of what might happen if you file a complaint. We also evaluate your situation to determine if the claim has merit and will hold up in court. Our team is focused on building powerful partnerships with our clients, not just racking up numbers of cases. 

We assess the strength of your case, whether our values align, and how well our goals agree for the outcome. We focus on claims where we are the best fit with the client’s needs and that have a high chance of success. These ideals allow our team to most effectively impact employees who are suffering discrimination at a company or within an industry.

A Successful Discrimination Claim Can Result in Compensation for Your Damages 

At its worst, harassment and discrimination at work can cause you to lose pay, your employment, and even your health. Constant worry and stress make it difficult to perform your work. With lowered income or unemployment, your future and your family can suffer because of other’s actions. 

Filing a workplace discrimination lawsuit allows you the opportunity to request compensation for all the damages you have experienced. You may include the company, its executives, and specific individuals as defendants, holding them accountable for their negligence or intentional actions regarding the discrimination. Some examples of damages you could recover include: 

  • Back pay and bonuses you were denied
  • Emotional distress
  • Future pay you could have earned if a promotion or raise was withheld
  • Lost or reduced benefits such as bonuses, retirement contributions, and stock awards 
  • Loss of your personal and professional reputations
  • Mental anguish
  • Reinstatement of rank, privileges, and other benefits if you were demoted 

These compensatory damages are meant to address the economic and non-economic ways in which your life was affected by illegal actions on the job. In situations where the behavior was widespread, malicious, or particularly egregious, the judge may elect to award punitive damages. A punitive award not only hurts the company substantially but also warns other companies who may be committing the same actions.

Meet With Our Illinois Employment Discrimination Lawyers Today

Although it can seem overwhelming to take on a company for breaking the law, we believe you will be more confident after meeting with our accomplished and experienced team of job discrimination attorneys at Wanta Thome. We will explain every step and give you our best advice during your initial free evaluation, with no obligation on your part. When you trust us with your claim, we begin to investigate and build the most robust case possible.

You do not have to face harassment or discrimination alone. We are here to provide compassionate and knowledgeable help, paired with a tenacious and result-driven approach to holding wrongdoers accountable. Contact us to schedule your free consultation and understand how you can seek justice today. 


Contact us for a no-obligation confidential consultation with our employment law team.