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Whistleblowing and Retaliation – What Employees Should Know

Dec. 18, 2017

Illinois, being an at-will employment state, gives power to an employer to lay off a worker for any reason whatsoever. However, there are several laws that prohibit them from firing an employee for reporting their illegal activities and misconducts, such as whistleblowing. If you have information about your employer violating regulations of public health and safety or breaking any workplace laws, you should report their wrongdoing. Such employees are known as whistleblowers, and are protected by many federal and state laws from employers’ retaliation.

Difference between Retaliation and Whistleblowing claims

Whistleblowing involves reporting misconducts prohibited by certain laws or actions that may result in violation of public trust or cause damage to public safety. Whistleblowing rarely includes complaints regarding retaliation of an employer regarding personal issues or dislikes that affect only a single individual.

Illinois laws give several workplace rights to employees, such as the right to be paid overtime and minimum wages, to be free from any type of discrimination, and join unions to address the issues and protect the rights of other employees. If the action of an employer interferes with the rights of workers in an illegal way, a retaliation claim can be filed for protecting those rights.

Anti-retaliation and Whistleblower Laws

Many dangers to public health and safety and violations of the law at the workplace go unreported because employees are afraid of becoming a victim of retaliatory discharge. However, there are several laws in place to safeguard workers, such as health and safety laws, wage and hour protections, and antidiscrimination laws. They also protect employees who are engaged in a protected activity.

In Illinois, initiatives and laws have been introduced for ensuring public safety, including taxpayer-funded programs and environmental laws. Moreover, there are government-issued regulations for specific industries, such as airlines, trucking, and nuclear power, protecting employees when they report information and provide evidence for illegality, abuse of power, gross mismanagement, fraud or gross waste, or any other things that may cause a specific and substantial damage to public health and safety.

Filing a Retaliation or Whistleblower Claim in Illinois

Generally, you can file a retaliatory discharge case against your employer in an appropriate court. The statute of limitations for filing such a lawsuit is 5 years of the retaliatory action. You may be rewarded back pay with interest, reinstatement, and compensation for several types of damages.

In case of unlawful discrimination in retaliation, you have 180 days to file a complaint against your employer with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). You may also file a complaint with the Department of Labor of Illinois if the issue concerns occupational safety and health. You must file the complaint within 30 days of the employer’s retaliatory action.

While you may think it will become difficult to work under the same roof with your employer after filing a complaint against them, you have nothing to fear. Talk to an experienced Roselle wrongful termination attorney to discuss your case and know how you can protect yourself from retaliation of your employer. Contact the Law Office of Michael T. Smith today for a consultation.