An Illinois Appellate Court recently dismissed a police officer’s whistleblower retaliation claim. Blisset v. City of Chicago.

A police officer was demoted from the rank of Commander to Captain under a police department’s restructuring of its detective units and areas. After being demoted, the officer sued the City under the Whistleblower Act arguing he was retaliated against for disclosing illegal activity, refusing to participate in illegal activity, and that the police department retaliated against him for exposing public corruption or wrongdoing. The police officer alleged his demotion was retaliation for disclosing information to City attorneys about another officer’s attempt to commit perjury and his refusal to participate in a conspiracy to commit perjury.

The Whistleblower Act. 740 ILCS 174/1 et seq., prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee for disclosing information which the employee reasonably believes discloses illegal activity to the government or law enforcement, or for refusing to participate in an illegal activity. The police officer argued that the Whistleblower Act created a private right of action against the City for retaliatory actions taken against him for disclosing public corruption. The circuit court ruled in favor of the City and dismissed the case, finding that the police officer failed to prove he disclosed information about an activity he reasonably believed to be illegal or that he refused to participate in illegal activity.

On appeal, the Appellate Court upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit. The Court noted that the Whistleblower Act required the police officer to show an invitation to participate in illegal activity and his refusal to participate. Here, the police officer failed to show that he was invited to participate in an illegal activity by any member of the police department or the City. Additionally, the Appellate Court ruled the police officer lacked a reasonable belief that he was disclosing information about an illegal activity as the statements made by the other officer were not made under oath. Finally, the Appellate Court rejected the police officer’s argument that the Whistleblower Act created a private right of action, finding that the Act merely defined actions by the police department that would constitute unlawful retaliation and did not grant the police officer a private right of action.

Post Authored by Tyler Smith, Ancel Glink