If you filed a complaint against your employer in Illinois and were fired, you are a victim of retaliatory discharge. An employer that retaliates against an employee may face severe financial consequences. Below are some of the most common examples of retaliatory discharge. If you think this has happened to you, our Chicago retaliatory discharge attorneys at North Suburban Legal Services can help.
Suppose you are 45 years old and were fired for being late to work. However, you notice that a 30-year-old colleague is also often late and has never been disciplined. You could be a victim of age discrimination. If that happened, the good news is Illinois has the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). This law makes it illegal for an employer to retaliate or treat you unfairly because of your age. ADEA applies to layoffs, terminations, payroll benefits, and promotions.
Sexual harassment on the job is always intolerable. At work, it is illegal. If you suspect you were sexually harassed at work and you believe your manager fired you because of a complaint, talk to a retaliatory discharge lawyer in Chicago today. Sexual harassment is covered in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and can be punished according to federal law.
If you prove your claim, you may be entitled to back pay from when you were fired until you received a settlement or were reinstated. When you have the right attorney working for you, you could be entitled to additional compensation.
Your employer cannot fire or demote you for being part of a lawsuit, investigation, or hearing about possibly illegal company practices. For instance, if you receive a subpoena to testify in a sexual discrimination case, you cannot be terminated for doing so. Also, an employee that offers information to investigators about hour and wage violations cannot be fired.
If you reported possibly illegal behavior by your employer, they cannot retaliate by terminating you. For example, suppose you find out your company is breaking EPA rules by poisoning a local river with manufacturing waste. If you report it and your company fires you, you should file a lawsuit for retaliatory discharge.
Courts use what is called an objective standard when reviewing employee protections. This means that your claim about possibly illegal behavior has to have been made in good faith. It is not necessary that the law violation really happened. As long as you honestly believed that the violation happened, the reporting you did is legally protected.
All retaliatory discharge cases are different, but many cases follow a similar pattern:
If your case looks a bit different than this example, it is ok. If you are able to prove that you filed a claim or complaint and then were fired, you have two vital aspects of a retaliatory discrimination case.
To prove a retaliatory discharge claim, if you still work at the employer, you need to file a complaint with the HR department. This tells your company that you are taking action about a possible retaliatory discharge claim. You and your attorney must prove the following to win the case:
You were a victim of or witnessed some type of discrimination or harassment.
You were part of a protected activity after the company’s illegal activity.
You were punished in some manner because you were part of the protected activity.
It can be challenging to prove the link between your protected activity and the termination. Federal and state law allows for the link to be demonstrated by direct and indirect evidence. Direct evidence includes verbal or written statements that you were fired for participating in a protected activity. Indirect or circumstantial evidence means there was an inference that your firing or punishment was because you participated in the protected activity.
Most employers will not supply you with direct evidence that you were wrongfully terminated. HR departments and managers know employment law and that they can face a lawsuit for wrongful termination. So, it is helpful to gather as much circumstantial evidence as possible to prove your case. For example, take notice if adverse actions are often taken against employees who file complaints. Or, employees that look the other way when something questionable goes on are not fired or demoted.
If you decide to file a retaliatory discharge claim, be sure that you speak honestly with your lawyer about recent performance reviews. If your reviews show a sudden decline after you engaged in the protected activity, this could be useful evidence.
Whether or not the performance reviews suggest discrimination, it may be helpful to look at your company’s claim for why they terminated you with what is shown in your reviews. For instance, maybe your recent reviews show excellent performance, but the company says otherwise when they reply to your allegation. The positive performance reviews will cast doubt on the idea that poor performance was the reason you were fired.
Keep in mind that companies may fight the retaliatory discharge claim by trying to show valid reasons they fired you. After all, Illinois is an ‘at will’ employment state, meaning your employer can fire you without reason. However, they cannot fire you by discriminating unfairly against you.
If you think your company retaliated against you and terminated your employment unfairly, you do not have to put up with this mistreatment. You can sue your employer for retaliatory discharge and receive compensation. Please contact our Chicago retaliatory discharge attorneys at North Suburban Legal Services for a complimentary consultation at (312) 909-6089.