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Illinois Whistleblower Laws

A whistleblower is someone who notifies authorities about a safety violation or other information about an employer that is a matter of public concern. For example, a coal miner who notifies the Environmental Protection Agency about his employer's illegal dumping of coal ash would be considered a whistleblower.

Because reporting violations to authorities or the appropriate government agency may cost employers money (to pay fines, legal defense counsel, remediation costs, etc.), an employers may retaliate against an employee by taking a number of actions, including:

  • Firing;
  • Disciplining;
  • Blacklisting;
  • Demotion;
  • Suspension; or
  • Denial of pay or benefits.

Since it is in the best interests of the community to address violations -- whether they are environmental, safety-related, legal, financial, etc. -- the federal government and many state governments have enacted laws to encourage reporting by offering whistleblowers some amount of protection against employer retaliation.

It is important to note that in Illinois, whistleblower laws only protect employees of state and local governments. However, as long as they are public employees, employers cannot retaliate if an employee reports:

  • Violation of any law, rule, or regulation;
  • Mismanagement;
  • Gross waste of funds;
  • Abuse of authority; or
  • Substantial and specific danger to public health and safety.

The main provisions of Illinois whistleblower laws are listed in the following table. See Whistleblower Protections for a general overview.

Code Section

5 ILCS 395/.01, et seq.

Prohibited Employer Activity

Can not reprimand, suspend, discharge, demote, deny promotion or transfer because employee of a constitutional officer reports violation of any law, rule, regulation, mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority, or substantial and specific danger to public health and safety unless disclosure is prohibited by law

Protection for Public or Private Employees?

Public (note: federal law extends whistleblower protections to private sector employees of federal contractors and subcontractors)

Opportunity for Employer to Correct?

-

Remedies

Reinstatement; two times back pay; interest on back pay; and/or payment of reasonable costs and attorneys' fees.

Penalties

-

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact an Illinois employment attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

More Information

Feel free to browse FindLaw’s section on whistleblowers to learn more about the laws, in general, as well as what you should do if you have been fired for whistleblowing. If you find yourself in the latter situation, you should consider retaining an employment lawyer to help you protect your rights.

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