Appellate Court Clarifies Whistleblower Act

In a recent decision, the Illinois Appellate Court ruled that where a defendant did not act within the scope of his or her employment, there can be no liability under the state whistleblower act.  In August, 2006, Sara Meegan was hired to teach English at George Washington High School in Chicago.  Two years later, in February, 2008, the principal, Florence Gonzalez, told Meegan that the school was going to terminate her employment due to a decrease in enrollment.  In April, 2008, Meegan attended a meeting called by the Chicago Teachers Union.  At the meeting, Meegan stated that the gang activity at the school was caused by "disgruntled teachers instigating the students to violence."  In August, 2008, Carlos Munoz, the principal of Amundsen High School, interviewed Meegan for a job.  Munoz extended a job offer to Meegan, but later rescinded it after Gonzalez described her as "dishonest, habitually tardy, [and] often absent."  Munoz also claimed that Meegan failed to complete her work.  Meegan filed a lawsuit asserting various claims and sought attorneys fees for Gonzalez' alleged defamatory statements at the union meeting.  Though Meegan was successful at trial, the appellate court held since Gonzalez was not acting as Meegan's employer, she could not be held liable under the Whistleblower Act.