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Frequently Asked Questions about Illinois Employment Law

Frequently Asked Questions about Illinois Employment LawThe following are common questions we receive from people looking for employment law attorneys in Illinois. If you have any additional questions please call us at (312) 346-5320 or (800) 517-1614 or fill out our contact us form and we will contact you.

Does my employer need a reason to fire me?

It depends. If you are an employee at will, both you and your employer have the right to terminate the employment relationship at any time so long as the reason is not unlawful (i.e. based on your race, gender, age, or other protected category). However, if your employment relationship is based on an employment contract, or if you are required to give notice prior to leaving your job, your employer likely needs valid cause to fire you from your job. Cause may be established through any variety of unprofessional and unacceptable behavior, such as chronic tardiness, inability to work with others, poor performance, etc. The great majority of workers in Illinois are "at will" so usually you can get fired for any reason as long as it is not illegal. Remember, without a contact you can be terminated for reasons that are unfair, immoral or incorrect. As long as it isn't illegal then the employer has done nothing wrong under IL law. In Illinois we have illegal termination, not wrongful termination.

I got fired, how can I find out why?

In Illinois, your employer does not have to tell you why you are being fired unless you have a contract. Sometimes when you file a lawsuit or a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights or EEOC you will find out why you were let go. However, nothing about Illinois employment law requires them to tell you the reason you were let go when they terminate you.

I was given a right to sue letter from the EEOC, what does that mean?

Typically, anyone that files a complaint with the EEOC will be given a "right to sue" letter no matter what the result of their investigation is. This simply means that you have to file a lawsuit within 90 days or you forever lose your right to bring suit against your employer regarding the issue you complained about. People often confuse this letter as the EEOC finding in their favor.

If I believe my employer is doing something illegal, can I be protected from retaliation if I report my suspicions to the authorities?

Yes. Both federal and state laws protect employees who report suspected wrongdoings from retaliation by their employers. Such laws are known as whistle blower statutes. So long as the employee acts in good faith and with a reasonable belief that their employer is engaged in improper conduct, the employee enjoys whistle blower protection. Whistle blower protections prevent your employer from being able take any adverse employment action against you for reporting them, such as any attempts to directly fire you, to demote you, or to otherwise discriminate or harass you in efforts to terminate your employment for reporting your suspicions.

Can my employer punish me for getting hurt on the job in Illinois?

No. Certain behaviors are considered protected conduct in the field of employment law, and asking for a raise or for medical benefits is protected conduct. Other protected conduct include filing a complaint with the Department of Labor, reporting sexual harassment, or serving in the armed forces or reserve. Generally speaking, individual rights or any activity considered to be beneficial for the public are also protected conduct and an employer may not retaliate against an employee for exercising such rights.

Am I entitled to family or medical leave from my employer?

The Family Medical Leave Act entitles you to family or medical leave if:

  1. your employer employs 50 or more employees or you work for a public agency or private elementary or secondary school;
  2. you have worked for your employer for at least 12 months;
  3. you worked at least 1250 hours during the 12 months before the beginning of your leave; and
  4. your employer has 50 or more employees within 75 miles of your work site.
Can I collect unemployment compensation?

Anyone may qualify for regular unemployment compensation if they worked long enough in covered employment, lost their job due to no fault of their own, are able to work and are actively seeking new employment. There are several types of unemployment compensation that one might qualify for, so it is important to explore those options before applying.