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Handle accuser with care in whistle-blowing cases

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in Employment Law,Firing,Human Resources

Illinois law doesn’t allow employers to fire employees for reporting wrongdoing that compromises public policy. What that means is open to interpretation.

Recent case: Calvin Benford’s job was to load trucks with cases of beverages. Benford told a supervisor a co-worker had given him what he thought were bogus loading instructions, with the goal of stealing the cargo. Confronted, the co-worker said Benford was intoxicated. In fact, Benford did test positive for drugs.

Benford sued, alleging he had been forced to take the drug test as retaliation for reporting his suspicions. His argument was simple: If he hadn’t reported the co-worker, he never would have been tested and wouldn’t have been fired.

The court said that under the circumstances, a jury should decide whether Benford was wrongfully terminated in violation of public policy. (Benford v. Chicago Beverage, No. 07-CV-6958, ND IL, 2009)

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