Leach v. Lauhoff Grain Co., 13873

CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois
Citation9 Ill.Dec. 634,51 Ill.App.3d 1022,366 N.E.2d 1145
Docket NumberNo. 13873,13873
Parties, 9 Ill.Dec. 634, 115 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 4770 Daniel E. LEACH, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. LAUHOFF GRAIN COMPANY, an Illinois Corporation, Defendant-Appellee.
Decision Date31 August 1977

Page 1145

366 N.E.2d 1145
51 Ill.App.3d 1022, 9 Ill.Dec. 634,
115 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 4770
Daniel E. LEACH, Plaintiff-Appellant,
LAUHOFF GRAIN COMPANY, an Illinois Corporation, Defendant-Appellee.
No. 13873.
Appellate Court of Illinois, Fourth District.
Aug. 31, 1977.

Page 1146

[9 Ill.Dec. 635] Manion, Janov & Edgar, Ltd., Hoopeston, Rick E. Janov, Hoopeston, of counsel, for plaintiff-appellant.

Acton, Acton, Meyer & Smith, Danville, Thomas B. Meyer, Danville, of counsel, for defendant-appellee.

CRAVEN, Presiding Justice:

Does an employee discharged solely because he files a workmen's compensation claim have a cause of action for such retaliatory discharge? [51 Ill.App.3d 1023] We hold that he does.

Retaliatory discharge by an employer is contrary to the expressly stated public policy of this state and gives rise to a cause of action in tort for compensatory and punitive damages. The ruling of the circuit court dismissing a complaint and holding there to be no such cause of action is reversed and the case is remanded to the circuit court with directions to deny the motion and for further proceedings.

The first Workmen's Compensation Act was enacted in Illinois in 1911, and reenacted in 1913. It was taken substantially from a like enactment of Great Britain. (See Chicago Dry Kiln Co. v. Industrial Board (1916), 276 Ill. 556, 114 N.E. 1009.) The object and purpose of the enactment of the workmen's compensation law in this and other states was to eliminate the common law of liability for personal injuries based upon the negligence of the employer with its attendant and complex defenses of contributory negligence, fellow servant negligence and assumption of the risk. The difficulty of proof and delay in the courts often provided no remedy, subjected the injured employee to deprivation of livelihood, reduced him to poverty, and produced antagonisms between employers and employees to the point that under the police power, something had to be done. That which was done we now refer to as workmen's compensation. That legislation amounted to a tradeoff, liability became absolute, the various defenses disappeared, and the employee could receive compensation for his injuries without reference to fault. The employer had to pay, but the amount he had to pay was not left to the vagary of delayed jury verdicts but for the most part was dependent upon a statutory scheme, and the amount recovered would be less, but recovery would be certain. (See 81 Am.Jur.2d, Workmen's Compensation, § 1 et seq.) As we have indicated, the enactment of workmen's compensation legislation was pursuant to the police power and was done in furtherance of sound public policy. (Deibeikis v. Link-Belt Co. (1914), 261 Ill. 454, 104 N.E. 211.) We turn now to the specifics of this case.

Page 1147

[9 Ill.Dec. 636] On December 2, 1975 plaintiff Daniel E. Leach filed a complaint against defendant Lauhoff Grain Company, his former employer, seeking compensatory and punitive damages. The complaint alleged that plaintiff, an employee at will, was discharged by defendant on November 1, 1975, in retaliation for having filed a workmen's compensation claim against the defendant on October 14, 1975. Plaintiff alleged his firing was due to no reason other than his filing of the claim. Also, he alleged that defendant's conduct in firing him was in violation of section 4(h) of the Workmen's Compensation Act (Ill.Rev.Stat.1975, ch. 48, par. 138.4(h)) which makes it "unlawful for any employer * * * to discharge or [51 Ill.App.3d 1024] threaten to discharge * * * an employee because of the exercise of his rights or remedies granted to him by this Act." The court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a cause of action.

Ordinarily, an employee at will may be terminated by the employer for any cause or no cause at all. However, this principle is not absolute.

Broadly stated, "Public policy is that principle of the law which holds, that no subject or citizen can lawfully do that which has a tendency to be injurious to the public, or against the public good." (People ex rel. Peabody v. Chicago Gas Trust Co. (1889), 130 Ill. 268, 294, 22 N.E. 798, 803.) It "relates to good morals, natural justice and matters affecting the citizens of the State generally." (Chicago & E. I. R. R. Co. v. Rouse (1898), 78 Ill.App. 286, 290.) "The public policy of a State is to be found embodied in its constitution and...

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    .......         On January 20, 1979, Bob Bond, a co-worker who had filed the complaints with plaintiff, was ...'where no clear mandate of public policy is involved' (Leach v. Lauhoff Grain Co., (1977), 51 Ill.App.3d 1022, 1026, 9 ......
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