Unexpectedly losing your job likely impacted your ability to pay bills, buy groceries and keep your home. Although Illinois is an at-will employment state, legal protections for employees are in place.
According to the Illinois Department of Labor, at-will employment means that you or your employer may end the relationship for any reason, at any time. However, several exceptions might help protect your rights if you have a wage and hour dispute with your former employer that resulted in termination.
Covenant of good faith and fair dealing
Employers must act in good faith and cannot give false reasons for termination. Did you have positive performance reviews with no reason to believe your job was in jeopardy? The organization may have to show “just cause” if they terminated your relationship. Did you earn commission as part of your pay? If your employer released you just before that commission was due, the court may also consider it in bad faith.
Implied contract exemption
Employment contracts often contain specific reasons for termination, such as non-performance. If your termination did not meet the contract requirements, you may have grounds for a claim. Employee handbooks and company policies may imply that employee termination only occurs with just cause. The organization may have to prove grounds for termination in these situations.
Public policy exemption
Your employer cannot legally end your employment if it requires that you violate the law. It also encompasses situations in which you act for the greater good of the public. This includes performing jury duty. If a collective bargaining agreement covers your job, the employer must follow the requirements of the agreement.
Proving wrongful termination is a complex process. Documenting the timeline of events and providing the dates and names of those present is essential. You may also need pay stubs, the employee handbook, performance reviews and other items as proof.