How Do I Prove Retaliatory Discharge Against My Former Employer?

If you lost your job recently and you think it was retaliation for filing a complaint, this is called retaliatory discharge. For instance, if you reported your company for allowing sexual harassment on the job and were fired, there could be a legal case.

Learn all about retaliatory discharge below, including how to prove your case. Then, contact the Chicago retaliatory discharge attorneys at North Suburban Legal Services for additional information.

Protected Activities And Retaliatory Discharge

It is vital to understand that worker protections against retaliatory discharges are often broader than other anti-discrimination acts. For instance, to be involved in a protected activity, you must honestly believe that the company is acting illegally.
Some common examples of protected work activities are:

  • Reporting your co-worker’s discriminatory behavior
  • Complaining about sexist or racist company policies
  • Demanding pay for overtime
  • Whistleblowing to a state or federal agency
  • Being part of an investigation that is being done internally or by a state or federal agency
  • Creating a union or talking about doing so

The most common reason retaliations occur is for reporting discrimination or sexism in the workplace.

How Companies Retaliate

The US Equal Opportunity Commission makes it illegal for companies to punish workers for reporting discrimination. Some activities that are considered retaliation by the EEOC include:

  • Disciplining workers for no reason
  • Engaging in verbal and physical abuse
  • Making it challenging to work for the employee
  • Threatening the worker with being fired
  • Watching the worker more carefully
  • Demoting the employee to more menial work

When Is Retaliation Illegal?

Most US employees are classified as at-will workers. This means their job lasts for any time, unlike an independent contractor. Also, a company can fire an at-will worker at any time and for no reason.

While you can be terminated for any reason or no reason, there are still times when termination is illegal. Retaliatory discharge is one such case. It does not matter if you are an at-will worker or contractor involving retaliatory discharge.

Also, most states outlaw companies from firing a worker who files complaints for discrimination or harassment. If your company fires you after filing one of these complaints, you may file a lawsuit against it.

What You Need To Prove For Retaliatory Discharge

It can be challenging to prove that you were illegally discharged. The requirements for proving this crime are different in every state. Generally, you need to prove the following elements in a retaliatory discharge case:

  • That you were fired or punished unfairly by your employer
  • That you were involved in work that is protected under state and federal law
  • That there is a compelling link between the activity and your termination

You and your attorney need to show a link between the firing and what you did in the protected activity. There are two kinds of evidence needed to prove you were fired illegally: direct and circumstantial evidence.

Direct evidence could be either verbal or written statements. This statement should indicate a link between your termination and the activity. Some examples of direct evidence are:

Text messages

  • Letters
  • Emails
  • Conversations
  • Statements from witnesses

However, it is unusual for there to be direct evidence in these cases. For example, most companies will not write you a letter saying they fired you because you filed a complaint. There are some instances where witnesses may have overhead something, but indirect evidence is more common.

Circumstantial evidence is also referred to as indirect evidence. This type of evidence implies a link between your termination and your actions. For instance, if you can show that the employee was fired every time someone filed a complaint, this can be convincing circumstantial evidence.

The fact of whether or not harassment or discrimination happened does not matter. What is critical is that you saw or experienced something that you thought was wrong. Then, you reported the act in good faith and were retaliated against for doing so.

For instance, if you were fired for reporting that a co-worker said a racial slur, it does not matter if you misheard the person. What matters is the company retaliated against you for reporting something discriminatory.

Proving retaliatory discharge is difficult. The burden of proof is on you to show that the company’s reasoning is not believable. So, ensure you retain a Chicago retaliatory discharge attorney to have the best chance of proving your case.

What An Attorney Wants To See In Your Case

If you think you were retaliated against on the job, it helps to come prepared when you talk to a Chicago discharge attorney. First, have a clear, succinct version of what happened. Also, bring some evidence to back up what you are saying. You do not need to bring folders full of information, but it helps to document what you allege.

Can You Be Fired For Reporting Misconduct?

No. Reporting misconduct in the workplace is protected by Illinois law. You cannot be fired for being part of a misconduct investigation. A company that fires you for being part of a misconduct investigation could interfere with the legal process.

What Damages Can You Receive For Retaliatory Discharge?

If you file a claim against your company, you may be entitled to the following damages:

  • Attorney’s fees
  • Punitive damages
  • Back pay
  • Mental anguish and emotional distress
  • Lost wages past and future

Contact Our Chicago Retaliatory Discharge Attorneys Today

As an employee, you should never need to worry about being retaliated against for engaging in legal activity at work. However, you have legal options if you receive poor treatment because of your activity. If you think you have a valid retaliation case, you need experienced legal help as soon as possible.

Our Chicago retaliatory discharge attorneys have years of experience handling cases such as yours. Contact North Suburban Legal Services today for a complimentary consultation at (312) 909-6089.




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