The phrase “wrongful termination” is a general term which refers to any termination that is in violation of the law, but this phrase actually includes several distinct claims and causes of action under the law.
Discriminatory Termination. Terminations perpetrated for discriminatory reasons would constitute wrongful termination. This means that an employee’s race, gender, age, disability, national origin, or other protected characteristic was at least part of the employer’s motivation for terminating the employee.
Retaliation / Retaliatory Discharge. Another form of wrongful termination is when employees are fired in retaliation for reporting illegal conduct such as complaining about sexual harassment in the workplace, complaining that they are not being paid properly, complaining about the discriminatory treatment they are receiving, or even complaining about discriminatory/illegal treatment of another employee. Retaliation can also occur when an employer terminates an employee for reporting an on-the-job injury, or for filing or attempting to file a workers’ compensation claim.
Of course, most employers are aware that terminating someone for the reasons identified above are illegal. This is why employers will usually provide a false reason for the termination; this is known as “pretext” or a “pretextual reason” for the termination, it is a fake (legal) reason to cover up the illegal true reason. This is a common practice, and it is something that experienced employment law attorneys are very familiar with. Through records analysis, cross-comparisons with other employees, and policy and procedure audits, a good employment law attorney can typically identify and expose pretext for what it is and reveal the employer’s true motives.
But time is not on the employee’s side in these situations. The majority of discrimination and retaliation actions in Illinois must be filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) and/or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 calendar days of the date of the occurrence. This is why it is important to not wait if you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, and to seek an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible to evaluate and move your case forward.