Illinois employees have several laws to protect them if they are whistleblowers. In fact, Illinois’ own Honest Abe (Abraham Lincoln) passed a whistleblower type law because of dishonest Civil War suppliers who put sawdust in the gunpowder and then sold it to the Union Army. In Illinois, whistleblowers are protected by both federal and state, and local laws. So, while no one likes to be a whistleblower, Illinois is a good place to be one.
What is a whistleblower in Illinois?
If you blow the whistle (i.e. exposed your employer’s wrongdoing or have knowledge of your company cheating the government or insurance companies), you may be entitled to money as a whistleblower. Examples of claims include improper billing, charging the government for services that were not provided, or misrepresenting things to the government to get money.
Sometimes referred to as “false claims” lawsuits, or qui tam claims, these claims allow a whistleblower to recover money if their employer is getting money unfairly. An example in the healthcare industry of false claims is Medicare fraud. Sometimes employers will bill Medicare or Medicaid or insurance companies for services that were not performed or that were unnecessary. This is illegal. Our Chicagoland whistleblower lawyers investigate whistleblower claims in the Chicago, Illinois area.
Specific types of whistleblowers include:
IRS Whistleblowers: If you have information that a taxpayer is a cheating the government, you might be entitled to a portion of any recovery by the IRS. There are specific ways you must report a tax fraud to the IRS.
SEC Whistleblowers: The SEC has a whistleblower program for certain financial frauds
Medicare Whistleblowers and Healthcare Fraud: Medical practices sometimes get into trouble for up-coding, paying incentives for referrals, and not following CMS rules. Under the False Claims Act, a whistleblower can recover between 15 and 30 percent of the government’s recovery.
Illinois Whistleblowers: While many whistleblower claims are brought under federal law, Illinois has its own set of laws to protect whistleblowers. It also has a unique law that allows a recovery for insurance fraud.
In Illinois, is it illegal to fire or retaliate against an employee for reporting illegal activity?
Illinois law has historically protected employees who report unlawful activity to outside public entities or internally to supervisors. These individuals, better known as “whistleblowers,” are additionally protected by the Whistleblower Act if they report unlawful activity to outside public bodies, such as a government or law enforcement agency. The Whistleblower Act further protects an employee from being retaliated against for refusing to participate in an activity that violates state or federal law. There are many laws that protect employees who report illegal activity. For example, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has its own agency that investigates retaliation by whistleblowers.
Can my employer demote me for complaining about illegal activity if I work in Illinois?
Retaliation may come in many forms, including: voicing anger or attempting to intimidate an employee, suspending an employee after making a report or voicing concern, demoting an employee or subjecting the employee to negative terms of employment, reducing an employee’s pay, wrongfully terminating an employee after complaining. Often an issue that will arise in litigation is whether an employer had a “legitimate” reason for the adverse action. Typically, a factual inquiry into an employee’s work performance history, when the employee made his or her complaint, and when the adverse action by the employer began can help determine whether retaliation is occurring.
Can my employer fire me after I filed for workers compensation?
It is illegal to retaliate against an employee for filing a workers compensation claim in Illinois. Our Chicagoland lawyers also can assist if you have a workers compensation claim and were retaliated against for your work injury. Injured workers in Illinois often have legal rights. Depending on the nature of the injury, it may be illegal for an employer to retaliate or terminate an injured worker or someone who files for workers comp. (short for workers compensation). Chicago-area lawyers are familiar with workers comp attorneys because as employment attorneys, we frequently help navigate the workers compensation system as it relates to retaliation and discrimination claims. For example, if an employee files a workers compensation claim and is fired for going so, the employee may have a claim for workers compensation retaliation.
Am I entitled to workers compensation?
In Illinois, the Workers’ Compensation statute is in place specifically to protect employees from work-related injuries. Under the statute, an employee who is injured at the workplace while performing work duties is entitled to medical care for their injury so long as the employee makes a claim. The statute requires most employers to purchase workers’ compensation insurance to pay for work-related injuries that may occur and, thus, almost every employee in Illinois is covered by workers’ compensation from the moment they begin working. Importantly, the Illinois workers’ compensation statute is a no-fault system, meaning the injured party does not have to prove the employer was negligent or at fault prior to becoming entitled to compensation. Employees who are uncomfortable about filing a workers’ compensation claim with their employer may take comfort in the fact that workers’ compensation claims benefit both the employer and the employee. That is, when an employee files a workers’ compensation claim, he agrees not to file a lawsuit against their employer for their work injury in return for receiving compensation benefits. In fact, employers are not harmed because it is not the employer who pays the expense, but the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. Our Chicagoland attorneys are here to help you and can point you in the right direction to find a workers compensation lawyer or to help you if your employer discriminates against you for filing a workers compensation claim.
Illinois has its own version of a whistleblower law. Under the Illinois Whistleblower Act, certain types of retaliation is prohibited. The law provides that:
“(a) An employer may not retaliate against an employee who discloses information in a court, an administrative hearing, or before a legislative commission or committee, or in any other proceeding, where the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of a State or federal law, rule, or regulation.
(b) An employer may not retaliate against an employee for disclosing information to a government or law enforcement agency, where the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of a State or federal law, rule, or regulation.”
The Illinois Whistleblower Act allows for damages against an employer who violates the Act.
Feel free to call our Naperville Illinois employment attorneys if you have questions about a whistleblower matter.