The Illinois Whistleblower Act says that employers may not retaliate against employees who disclose to a government or law enforcement agency information about alleged violations of state or federal laws and regulations. But what about employees who don’t go to an agency, but raise their concerns internally?
According to one recent case, they’re protected from retaliatory discharge, too.
Recent case: Bruce Washington worked as a house manager for a company that provides services to people with disabilities.
After nine years, he was transferred to an apartment complex that housed company clients. There, he discovered what he believed were serious health and safety violations. He said bathroom facilities were inaccessible, laundry went unwashed and many physical obstacles made it tough for mobility-impaired residents to get around. Shortly after Washington complained internally, he was terminated.
He sued, alleging that he had been fired in retaliation for reporting health and safety violations. His former employer argued that he wasn’t covered by the Illinois Whistleblower Act because he hadn’t gone to a state agency.
But the court said that Illinois employees who complain internally could still sue outside the Whistleblower Act, claiming that they were terminated in violation of public policy. The court said that when the state Legislature passed the Whistleblower Act, it didn’t intend to protect only those employees who went to the authorities. (Washington v. Association for Individual Development, No. 09-C-2478, ND IL, 2009)