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What Can Happen to Whistleblowers and How They Are Protected in Illinois?

March 18, 2020

No employee should be forced to work under conditions that violate their physical and mental health. Additionally, they should not be forced to remain silent if they see something at work that makes them fear for their own safety, as well as their co-workers’ safety. The good news is that under Illinois’s Whistleblower Act, they can complain about negligent employers without fear of reprisal.

A ‘whistleblower’ is any individual who notifies the authorities about workplace safety violations or any incidents/concerns their employers may be trying to hide. For instance, if you work in a paint factory and see waste being dumped in a nearby stream, you can ‘blow the whistle’ on your employer to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Since such complaints and actions can end up costing employers a lot of money (in the form of fines, legal counsel, remediation charges, etc.), they can take out their frustration on the ‘whistleblower’ by firing, demoting, blacklisting, suspending, or disciplining them or by withholding their salary or benefits. The Whistleblower Laws prevent them from taking these courses of action with strict repercussions.

However, these laws only protect public employees – i.e. individuals who work for the state and the local government. Besides safety violations, they can report employers without fear of retaliation for the following reasons:

ü Mismanagement

ü Waste of funds

ü Abuse of authority

ü Law and rule violations

Federal employees are protected from almost every angle. For example, according to Section 10 of the Whistleblower Act, employers cannot force, make, regulate, or use a policy to stop an employee from providing information to authorities if it proves they are violating federal law. Similarly, Section 15 of the Ac also states employers cannot retaliate against said employees.

However, employees are only protected under these Sections if they have reasonable cause to believe the information they are about to disclose can prove illegal conduct. Otherwise, they will be taken to task by the law and will not be protected against potential lawsuits that their employer may file against them.

In case an employer is found guilty of any issues that violate any of the Sections in the Act, they can be held accountable via a civil lawsuit. The result is they may have to pay the employee twice the amount in backpay (to make up for the time the employee was unemployed because they were fired in retaliation) and pay for the employee’s attorney as well as damages.

If you are facing an adverse employment action because of complaint you made against your employer, you have every right to ask for compensation. This is where the Law Office of Michael Smith can work wonders. Our law office takes time to go through every case, including the working conditions our clients work in. The claims process can be tricky, but we have helped our clients understand it so many times, we know it like the back of our hand. We will apprise you of all the legal options you have at your disposal, which you may not be aware of.