Illinois Lawyer Referrals and Legal Guidance
At Will Employment in Illinois
Illinois is an "at will" employment law state. The at will employment doctrine provides that an employer may terminate an at will employee for any reason (or no reason at all) and at any time, provided that his reasoning is not illegal. However, if an employer is motivated by discriminatory or illegal reasons, the worker may have recourse against his employer for wrongful discharge. In other words, you can’t fire someone because of the following:
- National origin
- Marital status
- Physical or mental handicap
- Military service
It is also important to note that an employee may not be fired for conduct protected by law. This is most commonly seen when an employer seeks retaliation against an employee for filing a workman’s compensation suit. It is also illegal for an employer to fire an employee who has engaged in “whistle-blowing” activity.
None of this means that if you are a certain race or hurt on the job or pregnant, etc. that you can’t be fired. It just means that you can’t be fired for those reasons. In other words, if you are terminated, don’t focus on whether or not it was fair, but rather see if it was legal or illegal.
The at will employment doctrine also applies to an employee quitting his job. An at-will employee does not have to provide a two week notice to his employer before quitting.
While every worker in Illinois is presumed to be an at-will employee, there are exceptions. Most often an exception is provided for in an employment contract. An employer may not terminate employment for any reason if such a contract exists. For the employment contract to be effective it must provide a defined duration for employment, or condition that employment may only be terminated for the specific reasons provided in the contract.
Other written exceptions to the at will employee doctrine include union contracts, statements made in employee handbooks that reasonably appear to alter the at will presumption, and statements made in other correspondence between the employer and his employee that may lead an employee to believe he is not an at will employee.
Less frequently, at will employment status may be altered by oral statements. This exception usually comes in the form of an oral promise by an employer to his employee suggesting permanent employment. However, oral modification of at will employment is far more difficult to prove than the aforementioned written exceptions. This is a complicated strategy involving complex legal principals.
Does this sound confusing? It can be. If you have any questions about at will employment or would like an attorney referral, please do not hesitate to contact us.
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