So, you've caught your boss with their pants down. Literally or figuratively, it doesn't really matter. For most legal complaints stemming from illegal workplace conduct, such as discrimination, harassment, or safety violations, federal and state laws protect those who "blow the whistle" and file a complaint.
Whistleblower: the person who alerts the government or a law enforcement agency to the wrongdoing of their employer or fellow employee.
Retaliation: when the boss (usually illegally) punishes an employee for filing a complaint, whistleblowing, or otherwise enforcing their rights as an employee.
There are a number of federal and state laws that provide protections to whistleblowers. We'd list them all, but your eyes would glaze over before you even got a third of the way through. Here are a few random ones, provided as examples:
The protections aren't just federal. In an effort to root out corruption in state government offices, then-treasurer, now-Governor, Pat Quinn pushed for whistleblower protection laws for state employees. In 1991, the original Whistleblower Act was passed. It was amended in 2008 to apply to state and local employees at all levels of government.
The Illinois Whistleblower Act provides dual incentives to snitch out your boss at the local county office. First of all, you get 30% of the amount recovered in any subsequent whistleblower lawsuit filed by the state government. Second of all, there's the whole "do the right thing" intrinsic benefit.
The State provides these tips for whistleblowing employees:
- Get proof. The state is more likely to successfully stop the corruption and successfully sue if they have proof before your boss burns all of the files;
- Don't break laws yourself. No one is above the law, and even if you snitch, you yourself could also be liable for your pre-enlightenment actions.
And if your boss retaliates, possible remedies provided by the Illinois law include double back pay, reinstatement, interest on back pay, and payment of costs and attorney's fees.
Speaking of attorneys, since there are so many federal and state laws, some of which apply only to state agencies, and others which apply to both public and private employers, you should consult a lawyer before taking any drastic measures. After all, if your boss retaliates, he'll probably end up footing the bill anyway.
- Consult a Chicago Employment Attorney Before Dropping the Dime (FindLaw)
- Workplace Retaliation: Court Makes It Easier to Sue Employers (FindLaw's Decided Blog)
- The Dirty Secret: Unpaid Internships are Illegal (FindLaw's Chicago Employment Law Blog)
- EEOC: Top Five Discrimination Claims in Illinois (FindLaw's Chicago Employment Law Blog)