Illinois Whistleblower

A “whistleblower” is someone who informs the authorities about a person’s, employer’s or other organization’s illegal or unauthorized activity. This could include a government employee reporting fraud by a supervisor, a factory worker reporting ignored work safety issues, or a coworker reporting a boss who fired someone based on their sex or religion.

Many people are worried about reporting wrongdoing for fear of reprisal. Reporting misconduct may result in getting fired, or the organization could make the workplace so hostile that the employee has no choice but to quit. This is why there are whistleblower protections in place so that conscientious individuals can feel free to report illegal or dangerous activity, without fear that their truthfulness will come back to bite them.

Illinois Whistleblower Rights

The Illinois Whistleblower Act protects employees from disclosing certain information to government or law enforcement agencies. This includes any information that an employee has reasonable cause to believes to be a violation of a state or federal rule, law or regulation. Additionally, employers cannot make or enforce any regulation or policy to prevent an employee from disclosing such information.

An employer may not retaliate against an employee who discloses information to law enforcement, a government agency, a court, administrative hearing or other proceeding, where the employee has reason to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal rule, law or regulation. Similarly, if an employee believes that participating in an activity would result in a violation of state or federal law, the employer may not retaliate against the employee for their refusal to participate.

Federal Whistleblower Protection

The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is a federal law which protects federal employees who work for government agencies. If an individual makes a disclosure that reasonably shows a legal violation, gross mismanagement, waste of funds, abuse of power, or risk of danger to public health of safety, and an agency threatens to take retaliatory action against them, that agency may be violating federal whistleblower laws.

Unlawful Retaliation

Obvious retaliation for whistleblowing may result in being fired, or transferred to a lower paying position. However, even where an employer does not make it obvious that reporting violations will be met with retaliation, they may take some retaliatory action that does not appear to be retaliation on its face. This may include:

  • Denied raises;
  • Job transfer to a dead-end job;
  • Denied promotion;
  • Eventual layoff;
  • A sudden change in giving poor evaluations;
  • Withdrawing benefits;
  • Blacklisting;
  • Denied training; or
  • Denied advancement.

Even if the job, pay, and position are kept the same, and employer could encourage harassment of the whistleblower by other employees. Or in some close-knit jobs, like firefighters or police officers, the coworker may come down very harshly on a whistleblower reporting wrongdoing or other violations, threatening the whistleblower, until they are forced to leave.

Creating a hostile work environment may act as constructive discharge, even if the employer never threatened actual retaliation. If the employer and other workers make working conditions be so difficult, they may make a reasonable person feel that they have no choice but to resign from their position.

Even if the employee is not actually retaliated against, simply threatening retaliation constitutes retaliation.

Under state law, violation of the Whistleblower Act is considered a Class A misdemeanor. When an employer violates an employee’s whistleblower rights, the employee may seek damages against the employer in a civil action, for all relief that is necessary to make the employee whole again. This could include:

  • Reinstatement in the job, with the same seniority status the employee would have had, but for the violation;
  • Back pay, with interest; and
  • Compensation for any damages, including litigation costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorney’s fees.

Workplace Safety Whistleblower

Despite obvious safety hazards to an employee or their fellow co-workers, some companies do not actively encourage reporting workplace violations. Under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements, an employer must fix all serious hazards that are identified by on-site consultants, within a reasonable time. It is your legal right to raise workplace safety issues, and your right to file a complaint if necessary.

If an employee discovers a health and safety violation or believes there is a serious hazard, and their employer has not remedied the situation, the employee may file an OSHA complaint. Under whistleblower protections, the employee is protected from being fired, demoted or discriminated against by their employer for filing an OSHA complaint or participating in an investigation.

Whistleblower Rewards

In some cases, a whistleblower may actually be rewarded by reporting financial wrongdoing. As part of the Illinois False Claims Act, the legislature created the Illinois Whistleblower Reward and Protection Fund, which is a special fund in the state treasury. This fund is intended to encourage individuals to report fraudulent actions of state employees or contractors doing business with the government.

Fraudulent action may include bribes, kickbacks, extortion, public corruption, or other fraud. Whistleblowers who report fraudulent activity are eligible to receive a portion of the damages recovered, up to 30% of the damage award, including court costs and legal fees. The whistleblower is also protected from retaliation if they are an employee of the agency.

Whistleblower Protection Lawyers

It is not easy to risk your job, reputation, and livelihood, even if you know that reporting fraudulent action is the right thing to do. There are legal protections in place to make sure that your employer does not retaliate against reporting illegal activity or unsafe conditions. However, you may want to speak with an Illinois whistleblower attorney to make sure you can protect your future.

Alternatively, if you have witnessed fraud by a government worker or agency, you may be able to report the fraudulent activity and be compensated for standing up for what is right. Our attorneys have successfully represented our clients’ rights against whistleblower retaliation in Peoria and throughout the state of Illinois. If you have suffered financial or emotional injury as the result of reporting violations, contact your experienced Illinois whistleblower attorneys at Benassi & Benassi.

Class Action Law Suits

45 Individuals and Class Settle Race Discrimination and Retaliation Cases

Gillespie. et al. v. Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America, United States District Court Case No. 99-1102, Woodard, et al. v. Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America, United States District Court Case No. 00-1038, Warr v. Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America, United States District Court Case No. 00-2112. Patricia Benassi and Athena M. Herman were co-counsel for 45 individual Plaintiffs & class counsel in race discrimination/retaliation case. Cases settled. (July 2001)

Class Obtains $8.5 Million Settlement and Workplace Improvement

Palmer v. Combined Insurance Company of America, Case No. 02-C-1764; Radmanovich v. Combined Insurance Company of America, Case No. 01-C-9502.  Plaintiff’s lead co-counsel and class counsel Patricia Benassi and Athena M. Herman for individual women and class member who alleged sexual harassment, and sex discrimination in wages, job assignments, promotions and other terms and conditions of employment.  Plaintiffs obtained Consent Decree and class settlement in the amount of $8.5 million, as well as extensive changes in the working conditions, promotion practices, complaint procedures, human resource procedures and court-appointed monitors. (2005)

50 People Discriminated Against for Age Receive Total of $1.5 Million

Edward W. Rose et al. v. Keystone Consolidated Industries. Inc., Federal District Court No. 83-1059. Patricia Benassi was Plaintiff’s counsel in a multi-plaintiff age discrimination case involving 50 plaintiffs. Case settled favorably to Plaintiffs before trial. Settlement in excess of $1.5 million. (1983 – 1985)

Mitsubishi’s Female Employees Settle for Confidential Amount.  Company Donates $100,000 to Organizations Benefiting Women

Evans. et al. v. Mitsubishi Motors Manufacturing of America, Case No. 94-1545. Patricia Benassi was Plaintiffs’ lead co-counsel in a sexual harassment/sex discrimination case representing 27 female Plaintiffs, one of the largest multi-plaintiff sexual harassment cases. Terms of the settlement are confidential. Mitsubishi donated $100,000.00 to organizations benefiting women in addition to relief obtained for the Plaintiffs. (1997)

Women Settle for $3 Million and Beneficial Changes for Female Employees

Huffhines, et al. v. City of Peoria , et. al., Federal District Court No. 93-3162. Patricia Benassi was lead Plaintiffs’ counsel in a 50-plaintiff sex discrimination and First Amendment case alleging discrimination in wages and benefits, promotional opportunities, training and other terms and conditions of employment, sexual harassment and retaliation. Settlement was $3 million, including wage increases, wage and job reclassifications for female employees, promotions, training and other improvements in job benefits. (1996)

70 Management Employees Fight Age Discrimination

Isaacs et al. v. Caterpillar, Inc., 765 F.Supp. 1359 (C.D. Ill. 1991). Patricia Benassi represented 70 management employees who alleged they were subjected to illegal age discrimination when they were forced to retire. Results confidential. (1988-1992)

25 People Alleging Age Discrimination Settle for More Than $1.5 Million

James G. Sanders. et al. v. Northwestern Steel & Wire Company, Federal District Court No. 86-C-20095. Patricia Benassi was Plaintiffs’ counsel in a multi-plaintiff age discrimination case involving 25 plaintiffs. Case settled favorably to Plaintiffs prior to trial. Settlement in excess of $1.5 million. (1985-1987)

Child Support in Peoria IL

Despite the circumstances of their relationship, both parents have a legal obligation to provide ongoing financial support to cover their child’s expenses. Deemed as a legally permissible way to ensure a child is adequately provided for, child support ensures a child’s right to maintain the lifestyle they became accustomed to regardless of where they reside and with whom they live. The support is established on the basis that children deserve to maintain the benefits from both parents’ incomes in the exact same fashion they would if their parents were still together. Child support is customarily issued after paternity is lawfully determined or during the process of a dissolution of marriage.

Illinois Child Support Considerations

There are several ways to go about applying for child support in Illinois. Parents either file court documents as part of a legal separation or dissolution of marriage, or they file through the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Division of Child Support Services (IV-D Services). Whichever method a parent chooses, hiring a family law attorney will speed up the process and help a parent represent their case in a way that will be effective. Legal representation is particularly helpful in cases when a parent has a bad relationship with their ex-partner. Simply finding a parent that may have relocated or determining how much the other parent earns are tasks that may be difficult for an individual to tackle by themselves.

Determining Child Support

Essentially, child support is the total amount of money a parent is required to pay per month until the child turns 18 years old or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. In Illinois, historically, the amount paid was heavily depended on a parent’s net income and the number of children he or she has. In many cases, judges would follow an outdated, one-size-fits-all method of assigning payments that didn’t take the other parent’s income or other comprehensive factors into account.

Income Shares Model

A new law, which went effect July 1, 2017, has replaced the former system with the “income shares” model – a method already enacted in most other states. Courts will be able to refer to economic tables provided by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, which will determine the money allocation through a calculation of how the family funds would be distributed for a similarly situated couple living together.

The combined income of both parents, the cost of living and the number of children will now be considered to ensure that each parent is accountable to pay a proportional amount based on their relative or potential incomes (if unemployed or underemployed). In addition, the amount of time spent with each parent will be a factor in assessing child support quantities on behalf of both parents. Obviously, joint parenting situations will necessitate variations in calculations.  These changes may result in some parents paying less or more than they would have under the previous law.

Extraordinary or Special Expenses

One matter that will not change despite the impending new law is the Court’s probability of appending additional expenses. A basic child support obligation consists of food, shelter, clothing, and medical expenses.  As a parent, you know there is so much more that goes into raising children than just feeding them and making sure there is a roof over their heads.

Here is a list of expenses that are not included in the basic child support calculation:

  • Daycare
  • Laptops for school
  • Involvement in extracurricular activities (sports, dance lessons, music lessons etc.)
  • Religious or traditional celebrations (Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, sweet 16 celebrations, quinceaneras, Confirmations etc.)
  • Smartphone
  • Private school
  • Braces
  • Summer programs
  • Car insurance

All of these and others not included are considered “extraordinary” expenses and must be negotiated outside of this order to ensure that the children are afforded the opportunity to receive these benefits, too. Under federal guidelines, these expenses could be added to a basic table amount if the Court finds they are in line with a child’s best interest.  Including these expenses requires noting the particulars, such as total costs, each parent’s contribution, payment dates and any other relevant information. Consulting with skilled legal representation can exponentially increase a parent’s chances of consideration of these expenses in a court of law.

The End of Child Support Obligations

As stated above, most child support orders end when a child turns 18 years of age or graduates from high school, whichever occurs last.  In the event any of the following events occur, a child becomes “emancipated” in the eyes of the law and child support is no longer appropriate:

  • The child gets married
  • The child gets a job and no longer requires their parent’s support
  • The child moves out on their own and chooses to be independent
  • The child joins the military

Illinois Family Law Attorneys

Child support orders are highly individualized and vary based on the circumstances of a case. The attorneys at Benassi & Benassi have extensive knowledge of the complex nature of child support cases. Our goal is to help you and your counterpart determine an amount that reflects your contributions as parents. More importantly, we want to make sure the order is carried out with the best interest of the child in mind. Don’t let your children suffer the economic consequences of your dissolution or separation.

Child Custody in Illinois

In a dissolution in which a marital child is involved, issues of parental responsibility and parental time – previously called child custody and visitation rights – are often the most contentious and hotly disputed. Being with your child is typically near the top of every parent’s list of what they want in a dissolution, making it difficult to compromise on the issue to create a solution that everyone can live with.

Unfortunately, these legal issues are going through a rapid evolution. On January 1, 2016, the newly rewritten Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act came into effect, throwing some of the processes surrounding child custody into disarray.

Because the issue is such a hot one in so many dissolutions, and because there is so much uncertainty in the field since the law was changed, it is all the more important to have a solid family law attorney, like those at Benassi & Benassi, on your side. Doing so can ensure that your interests are protected, getting you the parental time and responsibilities that both you and your child need and deserve.

Changes in Illinois Family Law

Family law in the state of Illinois went through a huge change when, on January 1, 2016, the newly rewritten Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act came into effect. Some of the new changes are just semantic – the words “custody” and “visitation” have been taken out, and replaced with the phrases “parental responsibilities” and “parenting time” – but other changes are much more substantive, and can have a huge impact on the outcome of your dissolution.

The main purpose behind these changes was to ensure that the focus of custody and visitation disputes remained on the child, rather than on the parents. Using words like “custody” and “visitation” led to divorcing couples referring to whether they “won” or “lost” custody, which made the process more competitive than courts and legislators wanted it to be.

Additionally, awarding one parent “custody” and the other mere “visitation rights” made one parent feel superior to the other in their parenting ability and role, despite the fact that both still had joint custody, and therefore a say in the child’s future.

Together, these issues made it more difficult for couples to come to solutions regarding how they would care for their children after the dissolution, with both sides wanting to “come out on top.”

From Child Custody to Parental Responsibilities

One of the main changes to the new Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act is the replacement of “child custody” with “parental responsibilities.”

Under Illinois’ old laws, divorcing parents of a child used to be awarded joint or sole custody. If both parents were given joint custody, then they would both have an equal say in important life decisions surrounding their child on all issues, from their child’s education to their health.

The new laws, however, assign parental responsibilities instead. The dissolution court is put into a position where the judge can allocate decision-making responsibilities to either parent on certain topics, as the judge deems to be in the child’s best interests. This can result in a ruling where each parent has absolute say in certain areas, such as how a child’s religious upbringing will be handled, but no say at all in other areas.

The allocation of parental responsibilities is a fact-specific determination that looks to all of the circumstances in each case, making it important to have an experienced family law attorney to put forward the best legal argument to get the optimal outcome.

From Visitation Rights to Parenting Time

The new Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act also drastically changes how “visitation rights” are arranged, replacing them with allocations of “parenting time.”

The old setup gave residential custody, also called primary physical custody, to one of the child’s parents, and then assigned the other parent a set of visitation rights that detailed when they could be with their child.

The new law, however, radically changes all of this, instead it is going with a far more flexible determination. Now, judges in dissolution courts make a hyper-fact-specific determination as to how often each parent can be with their child, based on the best interests of the child. This determination looks to all of the circumstances surrounding the case, making the need for an experienced attorney even more crucial to ensuring that the optimal outcome is obtained.

The Best Interests of the Child

For both parental responsibilities and parental time, the best interests of the child are the touchstone that courts use to make a decision; however, the best interests of the child are difficult to determine. Under the new law, the best interests of the child include numerous statutory factors that the courts are allowed to consider, including:

  • The wishes and needs of the child,
  • How well the child adjusts to his or her home, school, and community,
  • The health, both mental and physical, of everyone involved, and
  • The wishes of the parents.

However, these are just the statutory factors. A court has the discretion to look to any other factor that it deems important or appropriate. Therefore, having an attorney on hand to argue your case is crucial for a successful outcome.

Parenting Agreements

Of course, these decisions do not need to be put before a dissolution court for a resolution. If you and your spouse can negotiate and come to an amicable agreement on the issues of parenting time and parental responsibilities, then you can create a written parenting agreement that resolves some or all of these issues. Doing so allows you to avoid the cost and stress of a dissolution court proceeding, though typically requires a family law attorney to create and help negotiate.

The family law attorneys at Benassi & Benassi understand that going through a dissolution is stressful, and can help you get the parental responsibilities and parental time that you and your child need to get through this trying time.

Burn Injuries in Illinois

Most burns are preventable injuries that stem from mistakes that may be out of a victim’s control, such as a negligent driver that caused a wreck or a product defect that malfunctioned due to an error made on behalf of a manufacturer. If victims of these incidents decide to pursue legal recourse, they may be able to hold the party at fault accountable, while seeking compensation for all the losses they had to endure because of their injury.

Types of Burns

A competent attorney will be able to handle complex injury cases involving the following burns:

  • Heat burns
  • Friction burns
  • Internal burns
  • Chemical burns
  • Radiation burns
  • Cold temperature burns
  • Friction burns
  • Inhalation injury

Burn Levels

Doctors characterize burn injuries by measuring the damage it has inflicted to the skin. There are three different types of degrees of burn levels: first-degree burns, second-degree burns, and third-degree burns. They range from minor burns that could be easily treated with a first aid kit to severe burns that require immediate medical attention.

First-degree burns

First-degree burns, also known as “superficial burns,” cause very minimal damage to the skin. It only affects the top layer of this skin, which is why this type of burn is categorized as the most minor of the three degrees of burns. When a victim suffers a first-degree burn, he or she will experience pain, inflammation, and swelling in the area. The infected area will be red and dry, and the skin may peel as the burn heals. Medical professionals say that it will heal on its own within the span of a week to ten days without leaving a scar. But they still encourage those inflicted with a minor burn to see a doctor for an evaluation, especially if the burn is located on the face, it affects a large area of the skin (covering more than three inches) or is on a major joint. Basically, a person should seek medical help if a person suffers a burn on his or her knee, forearm, elbow, shoulder, foot, spine, buttocks or ankle.

First-degree burns can be treated right at home in most cases. Medical professionals suggest that burn injury victims soak the wound in cool water for a few minutes, take a pain reliever, apply an anesthetic along with aloe vera cream to soothe the burn and use gauze with antibiotic ointment to protect the area. It’s important to note that contrary to popular belief, ice will not make the condition better, it will actually make the injury worse. Also, the use of cotton balls may increase the risk of infection.

Second-degree burns

Second-degree burns cause damage beyond the top layer of the skin and are more painful than first-degree burns. These inflictions are categorized by their trademark symptom of blistering accompanied with extreme soreness and red, splotchy skin. The blisters on the affected area may bust open and make the burn appear to be moist, creating an opportunity for the burn to become infected. It’s important that victims consistently clean the area and bandage it correctly so that it can heal. A victim will notice that the healing has begun when a thick, scab-like tissue, medically known as fibrinous exudate, emerges over the wound. Medical experts estimate that it takes about two to three weeks for a second-degree burn to heal without leaving a scar, but changes in skin pigmentation may occur.

Second-degree burns can be considered minor or major depending on the size of the affected area and the number of blisters a victim suffers. However, just like the treatment for first-degree burns, unproven home remedies are discouraged in order to treat these injuries. When these types of burns are mild, medical professionals suggest victims run cool water over it for 15 minutes or more extended periods of time, taking prescription medication and applying topical antibiotic creams or gels to the blisters to treat them. Major burns or burns covering the face, hands, buttocks, groin or feet require immediate medical attention.

Third-degree burns

Third-degree burns are the most severe out of the three categorized levels of burns. They cause maximum damage, which means that they spread through every single layer of skin and fat. With these types of burns, the muscle or even bone may be damaged. The affected skin and area of this infliction may appear to be charred black or white, and the skin may have a leathery texture to it. Burn injury victims may develop serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing and a lack of pain. Many people assume that third-degree burns would be the most painful due to them being extremely severe. However, they are actually the least painful of burns because the nerve endings in the area are most likely destroyed in these cases.

Third-degree burns require medical attention in order for them to heal properly. If one suspects they have been suffered a third-degree burn, they should call 911 immediately. These types of wounds tend to come with life-threatening complications such as infections, shock and the loss of large amounts of blood. These burns also carry a risk of serious conditions like tetanus, hypothermia, and hypovolemia.

Compensation For Burn Injuries

If your burn injury has been caused by the negligent actions of another person, you may be entitled to compensation. If you choose to pursue a claim you could receive damages for financial losses and emotional hardships you’ve endured due to this injury. If your case is taken to court, you could be able to recover the following damages for:

  • Hospital fees
  • Pain and suffering
  • Surgical Fees
  • Lost wages
  • Physical therapy/rehabilitation
  • Loss of the enjoyment of life
  • Emotional distress
  • Ambulance fees
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of earning potential

Experienced Peoria, Illinois Burn Injury Attorneys

You shouldn’t have to deal with all the costs associated with a burn injury if the incident wasn’t your fault. Contact the attorneys at Benassi & Benassi for a consultation and a chance at recovering the damages owed to you.