Wrongful Termination in Illinois


Wrongful termination in Illinois can be a complicated subject for many. Proving you have been wrongfully terminated is challenging, as Illinois is an ‘at-will’ employment state, meaning that employers and workers alike can end employment without advance notice and without supplying any reason or cause for their decision. Wrongful dismissal, however, can occur when employers violate certain exceptions to this ‘at-will’ rule, which are meant to protect workers from unsafe work conditions. For those wondering, ‘What is a wrongful termination?’ employees are wrongfully fired in IL when an employer discriminates based on certain protected characteristics and identities. Additionally, unlawful termination can also occur when an employer fires an employee in retaliation for certain actions. In these special cases, employees have a cause of action to challenge their employers and build a legal case against them. If you have been wrongfully terminated from job opportunities or have questions about what it means to be wrongfully fired from job opportunities, you might be interested in learning more about your rights as an employee. The following sections review employee rights against being fired illegally, explaining exceptions to ‘at-will’ employment in Illinois and discussing how to file a discrimination charge against employers in the state.

Terminations that Are Illegal in Illinois

Although wrongful dismissal in Illinois can be difficult to prove due to an employer’s ability to fire workers without providing a reason or cause, the law nevertheless outlines certain types of illegal terminations against which workers are protected. These types of illegal dismissal of employment protect workers against discrimination based on certain legally protected characteristics and identities. A few types of illegal firing include termination due to race, age, national origin, physical handicap and more. Certain types of illegal dismissal of employment also include termination due to pregnancy, childbirth, etc. and termination in retaliation for actions employees have taken, such as claiming worker’s compensation or reporting harassment in the workplace. Learn more about types of unlawful terminations from employment against which you are legally protected by downloading our comprehensive guide today.

Terminations that Are Legal in Illinois

Types of legal termination in Illinois include termination for any reason not defined as discriminatory under the law. These types of legal termination of employment include firing for reasons related to work performance, work quality, workplace behavior and more. As such, types of legal firing include dismissal due to lack of productivity, poor work performance, disrespectful behavior, insubordination, excessive tardiness, creating a hostile work environment, etc. If any of these types of legal dismissal of employment apply to you, then you may not be eligible to file a claim against your previous employer. In Illinois legal reasons for terminating employees abound, and many times, employers may fire you without providing a reason at all.

If you were dismissed from your job due to no fault of your own, be sure to review how to apply for unemployment insurance.

Exceptions to At-Will Employment in Illinois

You may be wondering, ‘Is Illinois an at will state?’ or even asking yourself, ‘What is employment at will?’ Generally, employment at will means that employers and workers alike may terminate employment whenever they wish for whatever reason — or no reason at all. However, in addition to the types of wrongful termination listed above, there are certain other at will employment exceptions in Illinois that limit how and why employers can dismiss their employees. These exceptions to at will employment include the public policy exception, the implied contract exception and the covenant-of-good-faith-and-fair-dealing exception. The public policy exception to at-will employment was partially covered above; under this exception, employees are wrongfully discharged when their dismissal violates a public policy. The implied-contract exception takes effect when an agreement, even an unofficial one, occurs between an employee and his or her employer regarding job security or procedures, creating a legal contract. Finally, the covenant-of-good-faith-and-fair-dealing exception means that employers must learn how to determine if there is just cause to terminate an employee, and the employee’s termination cannot be motivated by malice. Illinois recognizes two of the three exceptions.

How to File a Discrimination Charge in Illinois with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Filing a charge of discrimination in Illinois with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is necessary for anyone interested in escalating the matter into a lawsuit. Before suing an employer, you must file a wrongful termination charge with the EEOC within a certain amount of time after the discriminatory termination took place, although there are certain circumstances that may allow you to extend the deadline. Those wondering how to file a charge of employment discrimination may simply visit the EEOC’s official website, submit an online inquiry and undergo an interview. You may also visit your nearest EEOC office to file a charge in person. Charges may not be filed by phone. Be aware that employees of the federal government must undergo a different complaint process.

How to File a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit in Illinois

You may file a lawsuit against your employer in Illinois within a certain time frame only after receiving a Notice of Right to Sue following your discrimination charge. Some who file lawsuit against employers for wrongful termination, however, may be eligible for exceptions to this rule. The steps for how to file a wrongful termination lawsuit vary depending on the circumstances of each case. For those asking, ‘Can I file a lawsuit for wrongful termination?’ the EEOC will only file a lawsuit after it considers your case’s evidence, issues and its wider impact. However, you may file a civil lawsuit under certain circumstances. Those interested in filing a wrongful termination claim against employer claims should hire a lawyer specializing in labor and employment law. The EEOC will provide you with a list of qualified attorneys upon request. For more information about suing for wrongful termination in Illinois, download our comprehensive guide today.