Retaliation Claims in Illinois Workplaces: What You Need to Know

  1. Retaliation
  2. Retaliation Claims in Illinois Workplaces: What You Need to Know

When an employer takes adverse action against an employee for engaging in protected activity, that’s when the employer has committed “Retaliation.” You have rights at work, which include reporting misconduct, filing a complaint, or participating in an investigation. Retaliation can have a negative impact on an employee’s career, income, and well-being, and it can create a hostile work environment. In this article, we will explain what retaliation is, what the law says about it, and what you can do if you are a victim of retaliation in Illinois.

What is Retaliation?

Retaliation is any action that an employer takes to punish, intimidate, or discourage an employee from exercising their rights or performing their duties. Retaliation can take many forms, such as:

  • Termination, demotion, suspension, or layoff
  • Reduction or denial of pay, benefits, bonuses, or promotions
  • Transfer, reassignment, or isolation
  • Harassment, threats, or coercion
  • Negative performance reviews or disciplinary actions
  • Interference with work duties or opportunities

Retaliation can also be more subtle, such as excluding an employee from meetings, training, or social events, giving them unfavorable assignments, or spreading rumors about them.

What are Protected Activities?

Protected activities are actions that an employee takes to assert their rights, report wrongdoing, or support others in doing so. Protected activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Filing a complaint or charge of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or another agency
  • Participating in an investigation, hearing, or lawsuit related to discrimination, harassment, or retaliation
  • Opposing or resisting discrimination, harassment, or retaliation in the workplace
  • Requesting a reasonable accommodation for a disability or a religious belief
  • Reporting or refusing to participate in illegal, unethical, or unsafe activities
  • Whistleblowing or exposing fraud, waste, or abuse
  • Exercising or supporting the exercise of labor rights, such as organizing, bargaining, or striking

What are the Laws Against Retaliation?

There are several federal and state laws that prohibit retaliation in the workplace, such as:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits retaliation based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which prohibits retaliation based on age (40 or older)
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits retaliation based on disability
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which prohibits retaliation for taking or requesting leave for a serious health condition or to care for a family member
  • The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which prohibits retaliation for complaining about minimum wage, overtime, or other wage and hour violations
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which prohibits retaliation for reporting or refusing to work in unsafe or unhealthy conditions
  • The Illinois Human Rights Act, which prohibits retaliation based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, military status, or unfavorable discharge from military service
  • The Illinois Whistleblower Act, which prohibits retaliation for disclosing information about a violation of a state or federal law, rule, or regulation by an employer or a government agency
  • The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, which prohibits retaliation for filing or pursuing a claim for a work-related injury or illness

What Can You Do If You Are a Victim of Retaliation?

If you believe that you have been retaliated against by your employer, you have several options to protect your rights and get some justice. You can:

  • Document the retaliation. Keep a record of the dates, times, places, and details of the retaliatory actions, as well as any witnesses, evidence, or communication that support your claim. Also, keep copies of your performance reviews, pay stubs, and other documents that show your work history and achievements.
  • Report the retaliation. Notify your supervisor, human resources department, or another appropriate person within your organization about the retaliation and ask them to stop it or remedy it. Follow your employer’s policies and procedures for reporting and resolving complaints, and keep copies of any written or verbal responses you receive.
  • File a charge of retaliation. If your employer does not address or resolve the retaliation, you can file a formal charge of retaliation with the IDHR, the EEOC, or another agency that enforces the law that applies to your situation. You must file your charge within a certain time limit, which varies depending on the law and the agency. For example, you have 180 days to file a charge with the IDHR and 300 days to file a charge with the EEOC. Filing a charge is a prerequisite for filing a lawsuit in most cases.
  • Consult a lawyer. A lawyer can advise you on your rights, options, and remedies, and help you prepare and file your charge or lawsuit. A lawyer can also represent you in negotiations, mediation, arbitration, or litigation, and seek compensation or other relief for the harm you suffered. You may be entitled to damages for lost wages, benefits, emotional distress, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees and costs.

Retaliation is a serious violation of your rights and dignity as an employee. You do not have to tolerate or accept it. You can take action to stop it and hold your employer accountable. If you need legal assistance, contact a qualified and experienced employment lawyer today.

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