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03/09/88 Dan Veit, v. the Village of Round Lake

March 9, 1988

DAN VEIT, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT

v.

THE VILLAGE OF ROUND LAKE ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, SECOND DISTRICT

521 N.E.2d 145, 167 Ill. App. 3d 350, 118 Ill. Dec. 77 1988.IL.326

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. Bernard E. Drew, Jr., Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE NASH delivered the opinion of the court. DUNN and REINHARD, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE NASH

Plaintiff, Dan Veit, appeals from the dismissal of his complaint against defendants, Village of Round Lake, George Scherer, and Jack Haas, for failure to state a cause of action. We consider in this appeal whether an employee who has not been discharged from his job may recover damages for alleged retaliatory harassment by his employer for filing a worker's compensation claim.

The issues as framed by plaintiff are: (1) whether Illinois recognizes a cause of action for retaliatory harassment; and (2) whether, in addition to the employer, plaintiff's supervisors or managers may be liable for the claimed tort.

In count I of his complaint directed against the village, plaintiff alleged that while in the performance of his duty in his employment as a police officer for defendant village he was in an automobile accident and sustained a shoulder injury which required surgery to repair. Through his attorney, plaintiff subsequently submitted a claim to the village pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 48, pars. 138.1 through 138.30) for hospital and doctor bills and temporary total disability. The hospital and medical bills were paid in April 1984.

Plaintiff further alleged that since April 1984, and continuing thereafter, defendant village, through its agent, Chief of Police John Robinson, has harassed plaintiff in retaliation for making the claim under the Workers' Compensation Act. As instances of the alleged wrongful acts of harassment, plaintiff alleges he was not reappointed to a command position; was placed in a less desirable work rotation; was required to work on holidays more often than other employees of his rank; was relieved from duty as a juvenile officer and was not reappointed to that position; was not promoted to sergeant; was denied opportunities to attend seminars to further his education; was denied the opportunity to schedule his vacation; and was generally harassed, abused and mistreated.

Plaintiff alleged that the wrongful acts by his employer in retaliation for making the claim for his injuries was contrary to public policy of Illinois and, as a proximate cause, he has been deprived of wages, prestige and rank within the police department for which he seeks compensatory damages.

In counts II and III of his complaint, plaintiff realleged the same matters and sought compensatory and punitive damages against defendants, George Scherer, mayor of the village, and Jack Haas, one of the village trustees.

Plaintiff contends that an action for retaliatory harassment is a logical extension of the recognized tort of retaliatory discharge as it protects and enhances the same public policy of Illinois embodied in the Workers' Compensation Act as does the right of action for retaliatory discharge. He argues that a remedy has been established where an employer has discharged an employee in retaliation for exercising his rights under the Act (see Kelsay v. Motorola, Inc. (1978), 74 Ill. 2d 172, 384 N.E.2d 353), and that the same remedy should apply where the employer stops short of discharge, but otherwise discriminates against the employee in retaliation for having exercised his rights. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 48, par. 138.4(h).

Defendants respond that permitting an action for retaliatory harassment would further erode the general rule in Illinois that an at-will employee may be discharged for any reason, or no reason at all, from which the retaliatory discharge action is a narrow exception (Barr v. Kelso-Burnett Co. (1985), 106 Ill. 2d 520, 525, 478 N.E.2d 1354) and would result in a proliferation of claims against employers.

While Illinois has recognized a cause of action for retaliatory discharge since Kelsay v. Motorola, Inc. (1978), 74 Ill. 2d 172, 384 N.E.2d 353, the question of whether an action exists for retaliatory harassment is one of first ...


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