Retaliatory Discharge in Illinois: The Basics

Web Admin - Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Under the “at will” employment doctrine, employers are typically able to fire an employee for virtually any reason. There are some exceptions, however, including statutory rules which prevent employment discrimination against certain protected classes. Another exception is known as a “retaliatory discharge.”

What It Is

Essentially, the law, as outlined by the Illinois Supreme Court, allows an employee to recover damages if they show that they were fired from a job for engaging in legally protected conduct and that their termination violated public policy interests. A 1978 Supreme Court case, Kelsay v. Motorola, Inc. was the first in the state to define this tort.

Historically, there are two general types of situations where employees have won retaliatory discharge cases. The first is where an employee was fired for making a worker’s compensation claim.  To prevail in these situations, the burden is on the employee to affirmatively show that the termination was spurred by their seeking worker’s compensation.

In addition, employers can be liable for a retaliatory discharge when they fire an employee for reporting on improper conduct or refusing to participate in that conduct. For example, in one Illinois case, Palmateer v. International Harvester, an employee was fired after going to the police to share information about a fellow employee’s illegal actions. In another case decided by an Illinois appellate court, an employee won a claim after being fired for refusing to falsify pension plans--which itself violated federal law.

Retaliatory Discharge Damages

To pursue one of these cases, an employee must file a civil lawsuit specifically alleging that they were terminated in violation of these rules. But what sort of damages can the employee recover if they win?

Under Illinois case law, employees who win a retaliatory discharge case are generally able to recover lost wages from the date that the termination occurred until they find a new job. However, that does not mean that the employee can simply do nothing and collect a paycheck. Instead, courts have ruled that the employee has a duty to mitigate their damages by taking reasonable steps to find permanent work.

In addition, depending on the specifics of the case, a plaintiff may also seek punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish the conduct of the employer (instead of merely compensating the harmed party). These damages are only a possibility when the defendant’s conduct is particularly egregious. 

Legal Help

If you have questions about a potential retaliatory discharge case, contact a Palatine employment lawyer today. Call 847-934-6000 to speak to a member of our team. We serve many Northwest Suburban areas including Rolling Meadows, Buffalo Grove, Barrington, and other nearby communities.

Recent Posts


Long Grove estate planning Illinois elder law attorney Rolling Meadows accident lawyer Illinois medical malpractice attorney Illinois Probate Act of 1975 Forcible Entry Arlington Heights criminal lawyer trustee Illinois insurance claims lawyers Schaumburg construction accident lawyer landlord DUI defense Illinois Transfer on Death Instrument manufacturing Schaumburg injury lawyer Food and Drug Administration's Food Safety Modernization Act homestead rights Rolling Meadows Schaumburg traffic lawyer personal injury lawyer Arlington Heights Traffic Lawyer insurance negligence Buffalo Grove corporate attorney Arlington Heights personal injury lawyer Schaumburg civil litigation attorney Inverness DUI lawyer sexual harassment insurance denial appeals Schaumburg estate planning attorney medical research murder charges School Visitation Rights Act Rolling Meadows employment law attorneys Rolling Meadows insurance dispute lawyers, insurance dispute Illinois traffic laws Illinois civil litigation lawyer child safety Illinois trusts attorney Rolling Meadows personal injury lawyer wrongful death construction accidents, personal injury, wrongful death, Arlington Heights personal injury attorneys, workers' compensation Illinois personal injury lawyer Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act back injuries Landlord Tenant Ordinance Des Plaines collections attorney Illinois employment laws products liability Schaumburg Attorney spinal cord injury personal injury claim Barrington attorney Rolling Meadows estate planning attorney Deer Park employment law attorney college kids Rolling Meadows criminal attorney accidental death benefits living trust Des Plaines real estate attorney estate planning attorney Buffalo Grove traffic attorney Des Plaines personal injury attorney real estate commercial real estate Rolling Meadows drug defense attorney Palatine workers compensation lawyer Barrington personal injury lawyer elder law changes to mortgage law Arlington Heights accident attorney overtime violations Palatine employment attorney hands free device Chicago biking tips medical malpractice Illinois workers compensation attorney Illinois medical malpractice claim Chicago lawyer insurance denials llinois Real Estate Lawyers Association Illinois registered agent Des Plaines DUI attorney Schaumburg medical malpractice lawyer Palatine employment law lawyer digital media accounts, estate planning, Arlington Heights estate planning attorney, small business underfunded trust Chicago employment attorney Rolling Meadows Traffic Lawyer Crystal Lake employment law attorney Illinois traffic ticket lawyer traffic accidents driving Long Grove estate planning attorney pregnant women premises liability Chicago estate planning lawyer Schaumburg drug defense lawyer new real estate form creditors Crystal Lake car accident lawyer Retaliatory Discharge criminal record Illinois estate planning attorney marijuana Rolling Meadows car accident lawyers Palatine corporate attorney Palatine employment lawyer tax attorney Buffalo Grove personal injury lawyer defective products Crystal Lake law firm Schaumburg elder law lawyer deed transfer jet ski Schaumburg personal injury attorney wrongful termination Illinois small business Barrington real estate lawyer first degree murder Illinois collections attorney Barrington estate planning lawyer Illinois defective products attorney license revocation Illinois insurance lawyer agent estate planning, death tax, succession plans, business estate plans, Barrington estate planning lawyers medical marijuana pay when paid contract personal injury law firm denied insurance claim Palatine business attorney insurance claims loss of consortium digital information Des Plaines Illinois insurance disputes living trust benefits product liability unpaid assessment insurance claim dispute attorney forming a corporation in Illinois Palatine construction attorney severance agreements Arlington Heights insurance attorney medical malpractice, missed diagnosis, delayed diagnosis, medical mistake, Deer Creek medical malpractice lawyers Do Not Resuscitate loopholes real estate leasing health insurance dispute appealing an insurance claim Inverness real estate attorney employment law, meal breaks, rest breaks, hotel employees, Des Plaines employment law attorneys Long Grove real estate attorney boating DUI Fourth of July jet ski accidents Rolling Meadows insurance attorney defective products lawyer probate claims process estate tax pet bites Barrington civil litigation attorney Illinois workplace lawyer Mount Prospect real estate lawyer involuntary manslaughter Chicago estate planning digital evidence Schaumburg probate attorney unpaid overtime Des Plaines personal injury lawyer dram shop law power of attorney for healthcare Schaumburg criminal law attorney condo association Illinois corporate lawyer estate attorney Deer Park motorcycle accident lawyer insurance agent negligence employee rights Illinois Arlington Heights car crash attorneys Schaumburg real estate lawyer traffic violations Rolling Meadows traffic attorney Illinois traffic attorneys Schaumburg personal injury lawyers traffic crimes Buffalo Grove real estate attorney insurance dispute attorney pedestrian accidents Illinois Smoke Detector Act field sobriety test Illinois attorney Des Plaines motorcycle accident attorney truck collisions pedestrian injuries, pedestrian fatality Illinois pedestrian accident attorney trench injuries IRA trust transfer Employment Discrimination Law Arlington Heights estate planning attorney bike accident Schaumburg estate planning lawyer Arlington Heights wills and trusts lawyers healthcare Crystal Lake bike accident lawyer estate plan capital gains tax Illinois jet ski accident lawyer employment lawyer Legal Info trucking accident lawyers Schaumburg estate attorney Rolling Meadows probate lawyer insurance claim DUI attorney Colin H. Gilbert Buffalo Grove car accident lawyer murder defense Inverness traffic law firm Rolling Meadows corporate lawyer Des Plaines injury law firm Crystal Lake medical malpractice lawyer Illinois employment law Deer Park personal injury lawyer surgical mistakes Buffalo Grove personal injury attorney traffic laws Arlington Heights personal injury attorney owner responsibility breach of contract gift tax exemption, estate planning, estate planning strategies, Illinois estate planning, South Barrington estate planning attorneys Palatine criminal defense lawyer car collision South Barrington real estate attorney Riverwoods estate planning lawyer Illinois living will Illinois employment law attorney South Barrington real estate lawyer Deer Park accident attorney foreclosure financial advisors cell phone tower data insurance disputes federal crimes Illinois trucking safety Inverness elder law lawyer Illinois employment lawyer income distribution deducation BUI senior citizens operating agreements rest breaks Transfer on Death Instrument GM ignition switches Des Plaines criminal attorney drugs employment attorney dynasty trusts Barrington workers compensation attorney commercial leases Arlington Heights Attorney Chicago will attorney, social media platforms, Illinois estate planning lawyer, mortgage residential real estate Palatine Attorney Deer Park workers compensation lawyer Chicago car accident lawyer IRELA fatal car accidents Illinois pet lawyer preventing accidents construction accidents Palatine punch death special needs trust Inverness personal injury attorney Illinois Human Rights Act fault based insurance Crystal Lake injury attorney LLCs Barrington employment law attorney irrevocable trust real estate lawyer modern family estate planning Des Plaines drug lawyer Rolling Meadows insurance dispute lawyers uninsured motorist Illinois personal injury attorney pizza emoji Crystal Lake traffic lawyer underinsured motorist Chicago traffic lawyer Jay Andrew Des Plaines tax law firm pedestrian accident probate fees Attorney Ken Apicella Thanksgiving Barrington litigation attorney DUI penalities vacation home employment contract Rolling Meadows traffic law firm drug crimes Chicago will attorney expungement FMLA paid sick leave Inverness corporate attorney employment contract, employment law, employment at-will, Deer Park employment law attorneys, contract, Rolling Meadows real estate attorney Mt Prospect Attorney denial of life insurance Inverness injury lawyer Schaumburg car accident attorney Illinois law cell phone Crystal Lake medical malpractice attorneys Policy Cancellation icy parking lots Palatine real estate lawyer Palatine corporate law attorneys trust payments life insurance lawyer boating accidents natural gas explosion Arlington Heights lawyer right to work swimming pools rumble strips Illinois Trust Code Kenilworth estate planning attorney Illinois employment law firm FSLA Palatine probate lawyer work unions Deer Park medical malpractice attorney Buffalo Grove employment lawyer DMV marijuana crimes attorney wrongful termination, employment law, whistleblower protections, Illinois employment laws, discrimination in the workplace dealing with problem employees car crashes golf accidents auto accidents real estate attorney Illinois employment attorneys startup company digital assets, digital fiduciary, estate planning, digital content, Long Grove estate planning lawyers pedestrian-automobile accident Buffalo Grove probate lawyer Rolling Meadows criminal lawyer insurance dispute Arlington Heights medical malpractice lawyer Rolling Meadows litigation lawyer unauthorized overtime life insurance Rolling Meadows tax attorney investment property crossover accidents living trust vs will license suspension Crystal Lake criminal defense attorney insurance claim denials Barrington criminal defense lawyer license Mount Prospect elder law attorney Rolling Meadows employment attorney head on collisions deadly crashes BAIID Illinois personal injury traffic tickets hiring employees Deer Park criminal attorney employee discrimination commercial leasing Schaumburg insurance lawyers Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act car accident lawyers condo traffic deaths corporate law wills DGAA life insurance claims Des Plaines personal injury lawyers Palatine elder law attorney Fair Labor Standards Act Schaumburg employment attorney no contest clauses Buffalo Grove insurance claim dispute lawyers trauma after an accident home inspection lawyer personal injury Illinois traffic accident lawyer Deer Park real estate law firm Illinois will lawyer Rolling Meadows marijuana attorney Palatine civil litigation lawyer Des Plaines pet law attorney Barrington drug crime attorney Illinois bicycle safety Barrington boating accident attorney bicycle dooring accidents Illinois job attorney Illinois real estate lawyer controlled substance ken apicella probate lawyer Illinois medical malpractice lawyers Schaumburg Long Grove estate planning attorneys advance healthcare directive automated cars Arlington Heights wills and trusts lawyer cell phone accidents Barrington Traffic Lawyer sexual images Illinois DUI attorney Illinois wills and trusts Deer Park DUI lawyer Illinois wrongful termination lawyer insurance attorney criminal defense Arlington Heights real estate lawyer consent to a search Crystal Lake personal injury lawyer Inverness estate planning lawyer Barrington estate planning attorney drunk driving statistics unfunded trust trusts personal injury accidents Illinois construction accident attorney real estate attorneys Inverness civil lawyer Illinois insurance claim attorney Barrington personal injury attorney filing a medical malpractice claim Crystal Lake tax lawyer minimum wage Chicago trucking accident attorney Schaumburg wrongful death attorney whistleblower protections probate process Exclusions Illinois employment law attorneys Arlington Heights tax lawyer Barrington business law firm comp time speeding Illinois estate planning law firm Rolling Meadows DUI lawyer Palatine traffic lawyer elder abuse Illinois boating accident lawyer DUI Schaumburg corporate attorney Illinois mortgages Buffalo Grove injury lawyer Buffalo Grove traffic lawyers motorcycle accident lawyer nursing home negligence comparative negligence Buffalo Grove medical malpractice lawyers insurance agents traumatic brain injury estate planning for college students low-ball insurance settlement boating under the influence dog bites caregiver Crystal Lake accident attorney rent to own real estate contracts Palatine traffic accidents Chicago employment lawyer Arlington Heights wills and trusts attorney Deer Park traffic lawyer IRA benefits Illinois red light cameras privacy traffic offenses federal regulations for LLCs business litigation Chicago attorney Barrington employment law firm Illinois insurance attorney life insurance policy Super Mario rollover accidents Joliet general practice lawyers Crystal lake insurance dispute attorney employees Illinois wills and trusts attorneys Illinois business law atorneys pain and suffering foreclosed rental property IRS insurance dispute, insurance dispute lawyers, insurance claim denial, insurance claim delays, Rolling Meadows insurance dispute attorneys car accidents drunk driving Palatine injury attorney Crystal Lake business law attorneys Crystal Lake employment attorney Family Medical Leave Act Long Grove real estate lawyer Inverness accident lawyer Rolling Meadows personal injury attorney Des Plaines Traffic Lawyer Illinois workers compensation lawyer breathalyzer test insurance claim delay car accident Illinois business lawyer liability claims license reinstatement job lawyers Rolling Meadows business lawyer institutional trustee workers comp estate planning trusts insurance claim dispute wills and trusts workplace sexual harassment car crash injuries caretaker rights Arlington Heights traffic attorney Kenilworth estate planning lawyer Illinois real estate Buffalo Grove law firm Long Grove wills and trusts attorneys Inverness probate lawyer eluding a police officer Des Plaines drug crimes lawyer Illinois probate lawyer Illinois speeding lawyer vacation home fines traffic violations defense Palatine personal injury lawyer Schaumburg personal injury lawyer spinal cord injuries Arlington Heights trucking lawyer Illinois insurance dispute lawyers hit and run accident Self-Directed IRA Accounts Rolling Meadows boating crash lawyer probate food poisoning Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission Rolling Meadows insurance lawyer Illinois injury lawyer Schaumburg employment law attorneys Des Plaines civil attorney Chicago corporate attorney Crystal Lake traffic attorney car accident lawyer distracted driving accident victims guardianship attorney disability benefits Kenilworth estate planning attorneys medication errors Liquor Control Act texting and driving suspended license Affordable Care Act employment law liens in terrorem provision slip and fall accidents ObamaCare car crash Barrington criminal lawyer Barrington employment attorney personal injury, auto accident injuries, delayed injuries, serious injuries, Des Plaines personal injury attorneys problem employees Illinois rollover accident lawyers Palatine trusts lawyer Crystal Lake will lawyer clemency employee misclassification Rolling Meadows personal injury lawyers distracted driving accidents civil litigation attorney medical malpractice claims Illinois LLC creation TBI bicycle accidents traumatic brain injuries Illinois personal injury lawyers underage DUI DNR Arlington Heights employment attorney attorney fees Arlington Heights injury attorney trucking accidents Palatine civil attorney Illinois Sales Representative Act POA Crystal Lake car accident attorney reckless homicide Palatine law firm Illinois car accident attorney contracts Inverness real estate lawyer Palatine estate planning lawyer Illinois home inspection Illinois traffic attorney motorcycle accident Home Sale Contingencies Des Plaines insurance attorney healthcare claims Home Remodeling Repair Act drug crimes lawyer Schaumburg criminal attorney subcontractor pet law Barrington injury attorney Arlington Heights employment law attorneys Palatine drug lawyer Buffalo Grove criminal defense lawyer CAM brain injury Crystal Lake pedestrian accident lawyer Illinois criminal defense attorney Detainer Actions Crystal Lake pet attorney Crystal Lake estate planning lawyer Rolling Meadows Attorney Illinois lawyer drug crime estate planning lawyer slip and fall real estate zoning Des Plaines medical malpractice attorney Illinois estate planning social media after death Arlington Heights TBI attorney revenge porn Colin Gilbert Chicago insurance law firm workers compensation benefits medical malpractice compensation living wills drug possession blended families fiduciary rule delay Crystal Lake employment lawyer rollover car crashes Deer Park traffic accident attorney fiduciary rule digital assets sole proprietorship texting while driving Mount Prospect wills and trusts lawyers Whistleblower Claims estate planning, digital assets, Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, Illinois digital assets, Illinois estate planning, Arlington Heights wills and trusts attorneys criminal law holiday statistics Arlington Heights car accident lawyer civil rights violation probate claims mass shooting Illinois insurance claim dispute lawyer overtime pay Chicago insurance claim attorneys Crystal Lake insurance lawyer personal injury claims Crystal Lake civil litigation lawyer estate planning Crystal Lake personal injury attorney Illinois insurance claim dispute lawyers real estate closing anesthesia errors taxes internet Illinois motorcycle accident lawyer privacy laws Palatine insurance lawyer wage theft preventable medical errors personal injury attorney ACA installment contracts real estate contract PTSD meal breaks compensatory time Rolling Meadows medical malpractice lawyers murder gift taxes denied insurance claims independent contractor Barrington Illinois estate planning lawyer BAC natural gas Inverness insurance attorney employment law, Illinois employment laws blood alcohol content criminal Crystal Lake medical malpractice law firm civil litigation Illinois driving without license insurance disputes, Illinois insurance disputes, Illinois insurance dispute attorneys, denied insurance claims, Arlington Heights insurance dispute attorneys insurance claim denial power of attorney Des Plaines accident attorney Illinois medical malpractice case bad faith insurance claims Des Plaines real estate lawyer Illinois workplace discrimination attorney Illinois employee rights attorney. workers compensation Des Plaines claims law firm Barrington medical malpractice lawyers insurance adjusters landlord tenant law Rolling Meadows employment law attorney liability Illinois tax attorney Arlington Heights pedestrian accidents Class A misdemeanor construction contracts