On May 26, 2021, the National Women’s Law Center joined an amicus brief led by Women Employed and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, along with law firm partner DLA Piper LLP and 28 other advocacy organizations, in the Illinois Supreme Court in support of an employee who reported sexual harassment by an outside vendor and the third-party attorney who was hired to investigate the matter. The Illinois Appellate Court issued a troubling decision that would make it easier for named harassers to bring retaliatory defamation lawsuits against those who report or investigate claims of sexual harassment or other workplace discrimination. Amici are asking the Illinois Supreme Court to reverse this decision that would increase the already high levels of retaliation faced by so many who come forward.
The pleadings allege that the employer, Constellation NewEnergy, Inc. (“Constellation”), terminated its at-will contracts with the vendor following an investigation into reports of his misconduct, and has kept the names of the employees and investigator confidential. The vendor now wants to know these individuals’ identities so he can bring a lawsuit against the Constellation employees and outside investigator for defamation. In an attempt to make Constellation disclose the names, the vendor is trying to use an Illinois state court rule that can require pre-suit disclosure of potential defendants’ identities, but only in other circumstances that are not presented here.
Our amicus brief asks the Illinois Supreme Court to reverse this attempt to undermine the protections that encourage employees to report sexual harassment and other discrimination. A contrary decision could have serious implications, leading to greater retaliation against women and other workers who are brave enough to report sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination. If this troubling decision by the Illinois Appellate Court is not reversed, it would also discourage employers from addressing sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination and taking action in response to complaints.