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Complaining about working conditions—And public policy violations—Also protected

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in Firing,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

An employee who reports that his or her employer is violating state or federal law may be protected from discharge. The employee can sue for retaliatory discharge and also on the premise that firing him or her violates public policy.

Recent case: Jack Carty worked for The Suter Company, a food products manufacturer, and regularly put in 11 hours a day, six days a week. He complained to management that he thought his schedule, which didn’t always include a meal break, violated the One Day Rest in Seven Act. When Suter fired Carty, he claimed it was for reporting the violation, and also for telling a supervisor the company had violated federal law by using improper ingredients.

Carty sued, arguing that firing anyone for reporting any violation of the law compromised public policy. The court concluded that as long as the violations Carty complained about somehow impacted the health and welfare of the public, then reporting such violations constituted good public policy. Therefore punishing such reporting would stifle it and violate the law. The court ordered a trial on both counts. (Carty v. The Suter Company, No. 2-06-0408, Appellate Court of Illinois, Second District, 2007)

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