Loosing a job can be devastating to both you and your family. However, because Illinois is an at-will employment state, employers are generally allowed to terminate employees for whatever reasons they so choose. Still, this is not to say that all bases for termination are legal.
When you are concerned that your employment termination was a wrongful termination, or you believe that your termination was in some way illegal, then you should discuss your case with an experienced employment law attorney to learn more about your rights.
There are legal protections in place to protect workers from wrongful termination. “Wrongful termination” does not necessarily mean that you feel your termination is unfair or unjustified. Rather, “wrongful termination” implies that the termination violates the law in some way. An employer may not terminate an employee for the following reasons:
- If the termination would violate an employment contract;
- If the termination was made on a discriminatory basis;
- If the termination is retaliatory for the employee exercising his or her rights. For instance, the following are impermissible grounds upon which to terminate an employee:
- Filing a worker’s compensation claim;
- Filing a workplace safety complaint;
- Filing a sexual harassment action; and
- Reporting wrongdoing in the company, i.e., whistle-blowing.
- For taking legally protected time off from work for things such as jury duty, military leave, or time needed to care for oneself or his or her family members under the Family Medical Leave Act.
Each of the above identified grounds for a termination would be a “wrongful termination” since each one violates the law in some way.
Employees who have an employment contract are not considered to be “at will” employees. Rather, employment contracts impose a legal obligation between the employer and the employee—the employee will remain employed until the termination of the contract. Early termination of the employee would be an early termination of the contract, which is a violation of the terms of the contract.
Termination of an employee on the basis of discrimination is a violation of state and federal employment discrimination laws. There are certain legally protected statuses upon which an employee cannot be discriminated. These include the employee’s age, sex, race, religion, disability, national origin, pregnancy, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, military status, unfavorable military discharge, arrest record, and lack of a permanent mailing address.
Employees have certain protected rights in Illinois under the Illinois Whistleblower Act and Illinois case law. Under these laws workers are allowed to exercise their rights without having to fear being terminated from their job. Employees can report instances of illegal conduct to the appropriate government authorities, and can also refuse to participate in company activities that the worker believes to be illegal.
Employment law issues, such as wrongful termination, can be confusing. However, a skilled attorney can help. Please contact one of our experienced Illinois employment law attorneys today. Our Illinois law firm serves the communities of Schaumburg, Des Plaines, Rolling Meadows, Barrington, Palatine, Crystal Lake, Buffalo Grove, Arlington Heights, Inverness, and Deer Park. Please call 847-934-6000 to speak to a member of our team.
About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.