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Illinois Whistleblower Act Applies to Individuals In Employment Retaliation Lawsuit

A recently decided case, Hower v. Cook County Sheriff’s Office, 15 C 6404, 2016 WL 612862, at *2-3 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 16, 2016), explains the scope of Illinois Whistleblower claims, including that not only employers can be liable. In that case, an employee alleged that he was retaliated against for making external complaint. The individual defendants (not the entity employer) sought dismissal on the basis that the Illinois Whistleblower Act did not cover them. The court disagreed and ruled that:

“Defendants argue that Hower cannot pursue Illinois Whistleblower Act claims against individuals. Hower asserts in this case that Individual Defendants violated 740 ILCS 174/15, which provides that “[a]n employer may not retaliate against an employee….” Id. While Individual Defendants are not the entity that employs Hower, the Illinois Whistleblower Act defines the term “Employer” to include “an individual, sole proprietorship, partnership, firm, corporation, association, and any other entity that has one or more employees in this State,” and “any person acting within the scope of his or her authority express or implied on behalf of those entities in dealing with its employees.” 740 ILCS 174/5; see also Bello v. Vill. of Skokie, 2014 WL 4344391, at *8-9 (N.D. Ill. 2014)(finding individual liability under Illinois Whistleblower Act). In this case, Hower alleges that Individual Defendants were acting within the scope of their authority when dealing with Hower as an employee. Therefore, the motion to dismiss the Illinois Whistleblower Act claims brought against Individual Defendants is denied.”

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