Wrongful Termination


If you were a good employee with excellent performance reviews who was suddenly fired from your job for no apparent reason, you may feel upset. You may be confused about why you were fired from your job. You may even feel as though you were wrongfully terminated.

It’s important to know that wrongful termination is more than just a feeling; it’s a law with a specific legal definition. Even if you feel as though your termination was done without cause, keep in mind that there does not necessarily need to be a cause for your termination.

That’s because Illinois, like most other states, is an “at-will” state. At-will employment means that employers are legally allowed to terminate an employee at any time, for any reason, and without warning, as long as it is done legally. Likewise, employees are also entitled to leave their job at any time without reason or warning.

Wrongful Termination in Illinois

As mentioned above, the firing must be done legally. Otherwise, it is considered wrongful termination. In Illinois, you can file a wrongful termination lawsuit if you were actually fired and you can prove one of the following:

  • Discrimination. It is illegal to fire an employee solely based on their protected class. Protected classes include race, nationality, gender, gender identity, age, pregnancy status, marital status, and disability.
  • Breach of contract. If the employee and employer have a contract in place, and this contract is breached due to the employee’s firing, then it may be considered wrongful termination. However, if an employee has a contract with an end date for their services, that person is likely an independent contractor instead of an at-will employee.
  • Taking leave. A worker cannot be fired for taking leave that they are allowed to be given by their employers, such as using accrued vacation days or time under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  • Retaliation. An employee cannot be fired for engaging in certain protected actions, such as whistleblowing, protesting against an employer, or filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
  • Public policy. A worker cannot be terminated for reasons that go against public policy. Public policy violations are typically based on retaliatory discharge. Some examples include filing for workers’ compensation, refusing to perform sexual favors for employers, voting, serving jury duty, or protesting against an employer.

What Is Constructive Discharge?

Illinois, like most states, recognizes a form of wrongful termination called constructive discharge. This is when an employee quits because the working conditions have become so intolerable that they can no longer work for the employer. In this case, the employee had no option but to quit their job because the working conditions had become so bad.

In a constructive discharge case, the law overlooks the employee’s resignation because the employment relationship was terminated by the employer’s conduct. In fact, the resignation is treated as a firing.

However, an employee can’t simply quit their job for any reason and claim constructive discharge. The following three elements must be proven:

  1. Your employer intentionally engaged in workplace harassment by creating a hostile work environment.
  2. Your employer tried to get you to quit through discrimination or illegal motivations.
  3. Conditions at your workplace were so unbearable that your only choice was to resign your position.

Generally, a regular pattern of egregious conduct will need to be proven before an employee’s resignation can be considered a constructive dismissal. Isolated acts don’t typically qualify as adverse employment conditions unless there was a violent crime involved.

To determine whether or not an employee’s resignation can be considered constructive dismissal, the courts will look at factors such as:

  • The nature of the employer’s conduct.
  • Whether or not the employee was required to participate in illegal activity.
  • Whether or not the employer acknowledged the employee’s complaints;
  • How much time has passed between the employer’s conduct and the employee’s resignation?

Reasonable Person Standard

While an employee may believe that their working conditions are intolerable, the courts may not agree. They will use the reasonable person standard to determine whether the average person would find the workplace conditions to be unusually egregious and adverse. It does not matter if the employee believes that they are unable to work in the environment imposed by the employer. If a reasonable person would not find the conditions intolerable, then the employee’s resignation will be treated as a voluntary resignation by the employee.

Proving Wrongful Termination

Wrongful termination cases can be hard to prove, mainly because most workers are “at-will” employees. This makes it difficult to gather strong enough evidence to support an employee’s claim. That is why it is not recommended for a worker to represent themselves in such a case.

Instead, an employee who believes they were wrongfully terminated should contact an Illinois wrongful termination lawyer. A lawyer will have experience with these types of cases and already be familiar with the laws and procedures. An experienced employment law attorney can evaluate your claim to see if you have a wrongful termination case.

An employment lawyer can help workers navigate the Illinois court system. They know what types of evidence are needed to support your claim. Your lawyer can also discuss the potential consequences of filing a lawsuit, as well as the remedies you could recover. You could receive money to compensate you for lost pay and benefits. In extreme cases, you may be able to receive compensation for emotional distress and an award for punitive damages. However, these damages are not common.

Contact Our Chicago Wrongful Termination Attorney

While Illinois is an at-will employment state, employees do have some rights when it comes to employment and termination. You may be able to file a claim if you were fired for an illegal or discriminatory reason.

North Suburban Legal Service, LLC can help you file a lawsuit against an employer who has wrongfully terminated your employment. Our Chicago wrongful termination attorney can assess your case and help you get results. Schedule a consultation to get a favorable outcome. Call our office today at (312) 909-6089.




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