Workplace whistleblowing is the act of informing an appropriate authority about illegal or unethical behavior within an organization. Whistleblowers can be employees, contractors, or volunteers who believe that the organization they work for is engaging in illegal or unethical behavior. As a result of whistleblowing, whistleblowers may face retaliation from their employer, including dismissal, harassment, or violence. However, for Illinois workers, whistleblowing is protected by law. This law is known as the Illinois Whistleblower Act.
The Illinois Whistleblower Act protects employees from retaliation if they report a violation of the law or their workplace safety and health regulations. This includes reporting illegal activity, suspected fraud, or any other wrongdoing that is not permissible under Illinois law. The Act also provides protection against discrimination based on whistleblower status. Employees who are protected by the Act can rely on the law to ensure that they are not punished for reporting violations.
Protected types of activity generally refer to activities that are protected under state or federal law from retaliation. In Illinois, protected types of activity under the Illinois Whistleblower Protection law include reporting any activity, policy, or practice that the employee reasonably believes is in violation of a law, rule, or regulation; gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; an abuse of authority; or; a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
Other protected activities may be included based on federal law, and these include filing a complaint about discrimination or harassment, participating in an investigation, and exercising a legal right.
The Illinois Whistleblower Act (IWA) specifically prohibits employers from taking any adverse action against an employee who reports misconduct, including firing, demoting, harassing, or discriminating against the employee. Additionally, the IWA allows whistleblowers to recover damages if they are retaliated against. These damages may include back pay (often in multiples of what is owed), reinstatement, and attorney’s fees.
In order to know if you are protected under the Illinois Whistleblower Act, you must first understand what this Act entails. The Illinois Whistleblower Act is a law that was put in place to protect employees from retaliation when they report illegal or unethical behavior within their company. This law is broken into two parts — public and private.
Public sector employees are protected under the act when they disclose information that is in the public interest. This could include disclosing information about government fraud, waste, or abuse. Private sector employees are protected under the act if they disclose information that is related to a health or safety hazard, or if they disclose information that is in violation of state or federal law. Some of the most common examples of this type of information include theft, bribery, or sexual harassment.
The IWA applies to employees, regardless of their rank in the company. However, it is possible that the Act might not protect you if it is determined that you did not report the illegal or unethical activity in good faith. An example of whistleblowing in a company without good faith would be an employee revealing trade secrets or confidential information to a competitor. This can also include revealing client lists or making yet-to-be-verified or false accusations.
Also, if it is determined that you reported the activity in a way that posed a threat to the public interest, you may not be protected under the Act.
These are just two examples of how the whistleblower protection act can sometimes be confusing and difficult to navigate. So, if you have yet to “blow the whistle,” it is important to seek legal advice if you are considering reporting illegal or unethical activity within your company.
If you have been retaliated against for reporting a violation of the law, you may be able to file a whistleblower retaliation claim. To file a whistleblower retaliation claim in Illinois, you must first file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL). The IDOL will investigate your complaint and will determine whether there is enough evidence to support your claim. If the IDOL finds that there is evidence to support your claim, they may refer your case to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. They may also request that you file a whistleblower retaliation claim with the Illinois Human Rights Commission (IHRC).
The IHRC will investigate your claim and determine whether it has merit. If the IHRC finds that your claim has merit and that the employer retaliated against the employee, it may order the employer to stop the retaliation and take other corrective action. The department may also award the employee back pay, damages, and attorney’s fees.
You can also file a lawsuit against your employer in court.
Whistleblowers can take steps to ensure they are represented by an attorney prior to making disclosures and to help protect them afterward. As noted, the State of Illinois has a designated whistleblowing law that provides protection for employees who disclose information about illegal or unethical activity occurring within their firm. An experienced whistleblower lawyer can help individuals understand their rights and protections under this law. In addition, the lawyer can assist in preparing a statement disclosing the information, as well as represent the whistleblower in any legal proceedings that may occur as a result of the disclosure.
Whistleblowers are often left in difficult positions after they come forward with allegations of wrongdoing. If you are in this position, the first step is to find an attorney who specializes in whistleblower cases. The attorney can work with you to make sure that you have all of the evidence that supports your allegations. This evidence can help your case and may be necessary if you decide to file a lawsuit. Additionally, if you have been retaliated against for whistleblowing, or if you are facing criminal charges as a result of your actions, Illinois retaliatory discharge lawyers can help protect your rights and guide you through the legal process.
North Suburban Legal Services, LLC is an employment law firm located in Chicago, Illinois. One of our areas of specialization is in helping individuals who have exposed corruption or illegal activity within their workplace or organization. We understand the risks whistleblowers often face, and we are dedicated to helping them protect their rights and fight for justice. If you have been retaliated against for speaking out against wrongdoing, contact us today for a free consultation.