What is a whistleblower?
A whistleblower is someone who discloses information the person believes shows illegal, unethical or harmful conduct.
A whistleblower also can be someone who refuses directions to engage in illegal, unethical or harmful conduct.
The word “whistleblower” refers to the use of a whistle to alert others about a bad situation.
Is whistleblowing legal?
Yes. Many laws encourage people to report misconduct and protect whistleblowers from retaliation.
For example, in Illinois, it is generally unlawful to discharge an employee for reporting misconduct or refusing to commit an illegal act. The Illinois Whistleblower Act protects employees who disclose illegal conduct to government officials or refuse to participate in illegal activities.
Several statutes contain anti-retaliation provisions for reporting misconduct. For example, employees who engage in protected activities under certain laws (like filing a complaint) are also protected from retaliation:
Discrimination: The law prohibits retaliation for opposing unlawful discrimination or sexual harassment at work.
Occupational Safety and Health: The law prohibits retaliation for filing a complaint, instituting a proceeding, testifying in a proceeding or exercising any rights under Illinois’ Safety Inspection and Education Act, a law concerning occupational safety and health.
Toxic Substances: The law prohibits retaliation for making a claim, filing a complaint or action, testifying in a proceeding or exercising any rights under the Illinois Toxic Substances Disclosure to Employees Act. Under that Act, an employee has the right to know about any toxic substances with which the employee works.
Workers’ Compensation: The law prohibits retaliation related to workers’ compensation claims.
3. How do I file a whistleblower or retaliation claim in Illinois?
Generally: An employee may file a retaliatory discharge lawsuit in court. The lawsuit must be filed within 5 years of the retaliatory action, unless otherwise specified by law.
Discrimination: An employee may file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). A complaint must be filed in writing within 300 days of the retaliatory action.
IDHR has made an intake questionnaire available on their web site in PDF form: Complainant Information Sheet.
Occupational Safety and Health: An employee may file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor. The complaint must be filed within 30 days of the retaliatory action. The Department of Labor will investigate and may pursue legal action against your employer.
Do you think you were punished for reporting illegal conduct? Contact Jeff.