Illinois Municipality Concludes Probe on Hostile Work Environment


Blowing the whistle does not always need to involve fraud and malfeasance. Sometimes a culture of apathy allows a hostile work environment to develop that can only be addressed with outside intervention. Employees and managers who constantly witness pervasive discrimination and harassment in their workplaces often feel compelled to act, even if they are not the actual victims of the conduct.

Such was the case in the Illinois city of Naperville where managers recently concluded the last of three internal investigations relating to what a former employee called “appalling excuses for HR leadership.” That employee filed complaints alleging various types of gender and other discrimination and harassment and resigned her position in the city’s human resources department.

Fortunately for people in similar situations, various state and federal employment laws provide whistleblower protection to many employees who are not themselves the victims of harassment, but who later suffer retaliation for coming to the defense of their colleagues. In fact, numerous decisions by the U.S. courts over the last 10 years have extended the scope of whistleblower protection for those who come forward about harassment and hostile work environment, such as employees who:

  • Complain about conduct they find offensive even if there is no evidence a member of a protected group was subjected to it
  • Provide information about workplace harassment at the employer’s prompting
  • Do not themselves engage in whistleblowing activity but are associated with someone who does

Thankfully, when it comes to retaliation against employees who blow the whistle on workplace harassment and discrimination, the trend in the court system seems to be one of broadening the scope of current protections to deprive employers of ways of striking back at whistleblowers without technically violating the law. If you face a similar situation in Texas, consult an attorney can who help you understand the nuances of whistleblower claims and decide upon an appropriate course of action in response to employment discrimination.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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