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Workers Protected by Law for Reporting Unlawful Actions to Employer or Government

If you see something amiss in the workplace, you have the right to report it. You also have the right to be protected for speaking out.

In a nutshell, if you do report something that you believe may be illegal happening in your workplace, you are protected by law from your employer taking action against you. If they do take action, this may be illegal retaliation. Taking a step forward like this is something that a good, responsible worker would do; speak out to report a wrong that they believe is violating the law.

If you are acting in good faith, are being honest and reasonable and trying to rectify what you view as an illegal action, you are backed up by the whistle-blower retaliation statute(s). These statutes, usually found in a state’s Labor Code, but also on the federal level, are becoming a rapidly developing area of law that targets the rights of workers against retaliation or any other damaging actions that an employer may choose to take against an employee who has blown the whistle on them.

Typically speaking, it is your right to speak out and complain about dishonesty and illegal actions in a workplace. You may choose to report the matter to the employer or to a government agency. Most people prefer to report what they suspect is illegal activity to a government agency, to provide themselves with an arm length protective barrier against their employer.

Situations where someone is reporting a company for a violation of the law are tricky. Although the worker may take a stand to stop it, most are not comfortable with reporting something they view as illegal to the person they feel is responsible for the activity.

Most commonly, many of the violations reported deal with safety problems or hazards and/or harassment and discrimination against other workers. Often there may also be reports of unfair business practices that may involve defrauding the federal government or other falsifications. Speaking up means the person is swimming upstream in a virtual holding pattern, as many of the other workers around them want to maintain the status quo for the sake of conformity; they wish not to rock the boat and change things.

It is no small matter for someone to risk their career, paycheck and financial security to speak out against a wrongdoing. Many spend hours agonizing over whether what they are planning to do will make a difference, what will happen when they speak out and wondering if they are even right about the illegality of certain actions on the part of the employer.

You are not required to be 100 percent certain that what you are speaking out about is not legal. This is something for your Chicago employment lawyer to sort out and you definitely need an experienced employment litigation attorney on your side. The sooner the better, as actions like this are complicated and you need to have your rights protected.

While it may feel like a real risk to stand up, be counted and speak your truth, you have that right and you are protected if you do so. If you are the victim of unlawful retaliation, speak to a seasoned Chicago employee litigation attorney to have action initiated on your behalf and specifically customized to your situation.

Timothy Coffey is a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace. To learn more or to contact a Chicago employment attorney, visit