In Illinois, employment agreements tend to be "at-will." In essence, the length of the employment does not run for a set time and can be terminated for no reason whatsoever by either party. Thus, employees can be fired for any reason, or no reason at all. Like most other states with at-will employment schemes, there are some exceptions, such as when the firing was discriminatory or violated public policy.

For example, if an Illinois employer fires an employee for discriminatory reasons, a breach of employment contract, or in retaliation for exercising their employee rights, an Illinois employee may have a legal claim against the employer. For discriminatory purposes, Illinois employers cannot discriminate based on race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, disability, age, marital status, AIDS/HIV, or sickle cell trait.

What are Public Policy Violations?

Compared to other states, Illinois’ definition of "public policy" is not clear. To have a valid claim for wrongful termination in Illinois, an employee must show that the firing violated a clearly mandated public policy. This is considered on a case-by-case basis, but generally, if the termination of the employee affects the state as a whole, public policy is said to be involved.

On the other hand, being fired for whistle blowing or filing a workers’ compensation claim are clear violations public policy. Employees in Illinois are protected against termination for reporting illegal activities by their employer, and for reporting unsafe working conditions. This applies to reporting the illegal conduct either to superiors in the company, or outside authorities. Also, employees are protected against firing for bringing a good faith claim for workers’ compensation.

The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that it is illegal for an employer to terminate a worker because they have exercised their right to recover workers compensation from the employer.

What Is Actual Termination of Employee?

The Illinois law against wrongful termination, unlike in some other states, also requires that there be an actual firing. But this does not apply to other types of discipline imposed by the employer, including demotion or threat of termination.

What Are the Wage and Hour Laws in Illinois?

In the state of Illinois, the wage that employees are entitled to receive is $8.25 an hour. Employees can also get overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours a week. Illinois employees who work at least 7.5 hours a day can get a meal break that is 20 minutes. Illinois law does not require that the employers pay the employees for this break time. Under federal law, breaks that are of 20 minutes or less must usually paid.

Should I Consult an Attorney?

A qualified Illinois lawyer can help you determine whether there is a legal basis for a claim. Additionally, an employment law lawyer can help you navigate the legal system and represent you in court. She can help you get all of the monetary damages that you are entitled to.