When an employee sees someone at their job doing something wrong, they should feel safe in coming forward to express their concern about a violation or illegal activity. Unfortunately, some employers may be involved in the illegal activity, and chose to fire the reporting employee instead of taking responsibility. Whistleblower laws are meant to protect brave individuals who speak out against wrongdoing, to make sure they are not retaliated against for doing the right thing.
A few whistleblower cases here in Illinois demonstrate what can happen when an employee files a whistleblower lawsuit. In a successful case of alleged whistleblower violations, the $3 million verdict of a former Chicago State University administrator was upheld, and the University's appeal was denied.
Former Chicago state attorney and administrator James Crowley was fired from his job with the school in 2014. According to Crowley, he was fired after he reported some suspicious university contracts to the attorney general's office. He also refused to withhold certain documents about the university president's employment. A jury found in favor of Crowley, and the university filed an appeal.
The Illinois Appellate Court found that Chicago state engaged in a “campaign designed to both economically harm...and inflict psychological distress.” Now that the university has lost the appeal, they owe Crowley more than $5 million for his award, attorney fees, and interest.
Under the Illinois Whistleblower Act (IWA), an employee who discloses illegal conduct to government officials, or refuses to participate in illegal activities is protected from retaliatory conduct, including demotion or firing.
With a less successful outcome, former Decatur Police Chief Brad Sweeney's lawsuit against the City of Decatur has been dismissed. Macon County Circuit Clerk Judge A.G. Webber dismissed Sweeney's claims that he was terminated in violation of the Illinois Whistleblower Act. Judge Webber said Sweeney was an “at-will” employee, and could be discharged for any reason or no reason at all. The judge did not find any violation of state whistleblower laws.
While many cases end with a win for one side, and a loss for the other, most cases end up settling before they even get to trial. A settlement can be a way for parties to negotiate a settlement that both parties can accept, and avoid the uncertainty of a jury verdict. The case involving two Chicago police officers alleging retaliation for cooperating with investigators recently settled with the city.
Two police officers claim the Chicago Police Department retaliated against them after they cooperated with a federal investigation into alleged corruption. A police narcotics team was allegedly shaking down drug dealers for protection money. The case was set to have Mayor Rahm Emanuel testify about the police department's “code of silence.” However, the case settled on the day trial was to begin, for $2 million.
If you have been retaliated against by your employer, consider speaking with an Illinois employment law attorney to make sure your rights are protected. Illinois whistleblower laws may protect you from speaking out against discrimination, safety violations or reporting other unlawful activity. Our attorneys have successfully represented clients in whistleblower claims throughout the state of Illinois. If you have suffered physical, financial or emotional injury, contact your experienced Illinois discrimination attorneys at Benassi & Benassi.