ILLINOIS WHISTLEBLOWER ACT DOESN'T IMPACT RETALIATORY DISCHARGE
The First Appellate Court recently came down with an interesting decision involving the Illinois Whistleblower Act, 740 ILCS 174/1. In Callahan v. Edgewater Care, the plaintiff, Melissa Callahan, claimed that she was fired from her position as an admissions clerk in a nursing home for reporting activity that she felt was in violation of state law. Specifically, Callahan alleged that she was discharged for reporting to two supervisors that one of the residents was being kept in the facility against his will. After her discharge, plaintiff filed a retaliatory discharge lawsuit. The defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss, arguing that the enactment of the Whistleblower Act preempted her retaliatory case. Defendant’s Motion was granted. Ms. Callahan appealed.
The Appellate Court noted that the Whistleblower Act[effective 1/1/04] prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee for disclosing information to a government or law enforcement authority where the employee believes the information discloses a violation of State of Federal law. The Court went on to note that a violation of the Act may result in 1) reinstatement of the employee; 2) back pay, with interest; and 3) compensatory damages including litigation fees, expert fees and attorney fees. The Defendant argued that the Whistleblower Act had, by implication, preempted existing common law remedies available to employees discharged for their activities. The Court found absolutely no support for defendant’s position and reversed the trial judge’s decision.
The enactment of the Whistleblower Act will provide some additional relief to employees who report misconduct to superiors. Traditionally, in order to prevail in a retaliatory discharge claim, an employee had to show 1) he was discharged for his activities and 2) that the discharge violated public policy. Certain courts however, were overly strict in exactly what constituted a violation of public policy and otherwise valid claims were dismissed. Now employees have another avenue of recovery available.