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Wrongful Termination in an At-Will Employment State

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Like almost every other state in the U.S., Illinois is considered an “at-will” employment state. This means employers and employees can end their working relationship “at will,” meaning, whenever they want and for whatever reason. While an employer can fire an employee with or without notice for almost any reason, there are still limitations and restrictions on “at will” employment. When someone is fired in an unlawful manner, it is called “wrongful termination.”

Employment Discrimination Laws

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the landmark anti-discrimination legislation in the United States. Title VII of the law addresses employment discrimination and prevents employers from discriminating on the basis of:

  • race, color, or national origin
  • sex or gender (including pregnant women)
  • religious identity, practice, or beliefs

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects employees and applicants age 40 and older from age discrimination.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is another example of major comprehensive legislation that has shaped employment law in the United States. Title I of the law prohibits employers from discriminating based on a qualified person’s disability, instead requiring them to make reasonable accommodations for the disabled person when possible.

The Illinois Human Rights Act, among other things, protects employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Firing anyone based on their race, nationality, sex, religion, age, disability, or sexual orientation is considered wrongful termination in Illinois.

Breach of Contract

The majority of wrongful termination lawsuits stem from a breach of contract claim. Once executed, the terms of an employment contract must be followed. If someone is fired six months into a one-year contract, he may have a case for wrongful termination. However, written and signed employment contracts are not the only source of wrongful termination lawsuits based on breach of contract. Employee handbooks, verbal promises, and other sources of information could be considered implied contracts.

Retaliation

Employers are not allowed to fire someone for refusing to do something unlawful, such as working through lunch breaks or disregarding safety regulations. It is also unlawful to terminate someone for whistleblowing or reporting a superior’s wrongdoing. Employees cannot be let go in retaliation for taking legally protected time off (FMLA leave, jury duty, voting, etc.).

Employment Law Attorneys in Chicago, Illinois

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, reach out to the Chicago employment law attorneys at Goldman & Ehrlich. Contact us today to request a free consultation.