Employment Litigation

Carmen has represented both employers and employees in a range of serious employment disputes. The legal team vets these cases as carefully as possible and only accepts a small percentage of plaintiff employment cases. Employment plaintiffs Carmen represents are business executives or salespeople, professionals, media personalities, or dedicated public servants including first responders.

Carmen also defends employment claims asserted against many franchise clients. (Link for franchise employment experience.) As in all practice areas, having experience on both sides is invaluable.

Our employment experience includes:

  • Employment Contract Disputes
  • Sexual Harassment Claims
  • Retaliatory Discharge and violations of the Illinois Whistleblowers Act
  • Gender Discrimination
  • Race Discrimination
  • Disability Discrimination
  • Age Discrimination
  • Hostile Work Environment
  • Unlawful Retaliation
  • First Amendment Violations alleged by public employees
  • Discharge to prevent vesting in violation of ERISA (the Employment Retirement Income Security Act)
  • FMLA Violations (the Family Medical Leave Act)

Here are highlights from employment matters Carmen has handled:

Employment Contract Disputes

In executive or professional employment, the dispute often centers on a written employment agreement.

Carmen has successfully handled:

  • Severance agreement settlements for numerous executives and professionals including a prominent “head of department” physician at a major Chicago hospital wrongfully blamed for COVID-related layoffs at that institution.
  • Exit agreements negotiated for numerous employees, extricating themselves from overly broad non-compete agreements.
  • Overly broad non-compete clauses as successor counsel for an insurance agency that enforced the non-solicitation provisions in a departing agent’s contract, after the trial judge had held the non-compete clause (drafted by other lawyers) was unenforceable. Link to Non-Compete issues under Franchise Law.
  • Substantial monetary settlements for three Asian American pharmaceutical research scientists after they were terminated without cause under their employment contracts.
  • Defense against breach of contract as successor counsel defending a corporation that terminated its president, Carmen Caruso established collusion between the terminated executive and the company’s previous outside counsel regarding the company’s earlier inducement to retain the executive, creating a defense that predecessor counsel had not seen.
  • Obtaining 100% of stock due client after client was terminated as an employee and shareholder. The shareholder’s agreement pertaining to the stock was erroneously structured by a law firm in ways that would have imposed avoidable income taxes on the client.
  • Monetary recovery obtained for a Rabbi from his former synagogue that failed to pay his full deferred compensation (his retirement funds) after persuading him to resign in the belief full payment would be made.

Sexual Harassment Cases

Millions of dollars in confidential settlements have been obtained for victims of sexual harassment through Carmen and his firm:

For Plaintiffs

Carmen represented a former Fox News reporter who alleged sexual harassment and retaliation by the cable network and its former top-rated opinion show host and by the deceased founder of the network. Carmen engaged New York City attorneys as co-counsel and jointly represented this plaintiff in successful mediation. The confidentiality of this settlement was defeated when the New York Times published revelatory details.

Carmen and his colleagues have similarly obtained confidential settlements for a variety of sexual harassment victims including a female firefighter, a female office manager, and an office worker subjected to the improper display of Internet pornography by her supervisor who was seeking a physical relationship. This final settlement allowed the client to keep her job, terminated the offending supervisor, and a settlement payment was made.

For Defendants

Carmen represented a 200-unit franchisor when one of its employees accused a vice-president of sexual harassment. Carmen led the company’s internal investigation resulting in a confidential settlement that saved the executive’s career and preempted filing a potentially damaging case.

Carmen also negotiated the settlement agreement for an employer whose executives privately admitted their guilt after first denying it.

Gender Discrimination (“Glass Ceiling Cases”)

  • In Bellaver v. Quanex Corp., 200 F.3d 485 (7th 2000), Carmen won a federal court appeal on behalf of a female vice president in a male- dominated manufacturing company. The company had terminated the woman in a phony RIF because her male peers considered her “too aggressive” and “hard to work with.”
  • In diverse industries (enterprise-level software, corporate travel, health insurance, and corporate real estate), Carmen has obtained substantial monetary settlements for established, successful saleswomen cheated by male managers shifting large accounts to less productive male colleagues or denying them deserved “procuring cause” recognition for their success generating large commissions.
  • Carmen has negotiated settlements for a female attorney and separately for a female paralegal, successfully resolving their claims that they were paid less than their male peers.

Race Discrimination (or race plus gender)

When the person claiming discrimination is a racial minority, the federal civil rights law (42 U.S.C. §1981 provides a potent remedy, supplementing Title VII:

  • Carmen (with co-counsel Linda Chatman) represented a North Carolina attorney, an African American female, who alleged discrimination and retaliation by her law firm. In addition to her claims under the Civil Rights Act and Title VII, and the federal pregnancy discrimination law, Caruso and his team alleged the law firm violated the North Carolina Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act by misleading the public, and job applicants into believing that the law firm was committed to diversity and inclusion, when the facts proved otherwise. This case settled soon after Caruso and his team filed their memorandum opposing the defendants’ motion to dismiss (and after blocking an attempt to transfer the case out of Charlotte to a far less favorable venue demographically).
  • Representing two former executives of McDonald’s USA who alleges a pattern and practice of racial discrimination by McDonald’s.
  • Negotiating confidential settlements for African American saleswomen employed by a major pharmaceutical company.
  • Obtained a settlement for an African American female attorney who was the former General Counsel of the Illinois Human Rights Commission. She alleged wrongful termination in violation of the federal civil rights law as retaliation against her for speaking out against discriminatory treatment by one of the Commissioners against another African American female attorney on her staff. (See Parker v. Ill. Human Rights Comm’n, 2016 U.S. Dist. Lexis 32472 (N.D. Ill. 2016)).

Protecting First Responders

Carmen has represented multiple firefighters at Argonne National Laboratory who have alleged retaliatory discharge and other claims, some of which arose due to alleged safety violations at the laboratory and obtained confidential settlements.

Protecting Free Speech

Carmen represents public employees claiming termination or other retaliation as the result of exercising their right to free speech, in violation of Section 1983 of the federal civil rights laws.

Protecting Whistle Blowers

Carmen strongly advises anyone who suspects illegal activity in the workplace to contact an attorney as soon as possible. He will work with these clients to achieve the most effective route to success.