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Kelsay v. Motorola, Inc.

Supreme Court of Illinois

December 4, 1978, Filed

No. 49950

Opinion

 [*178]   [**355]   [****561]  Plaintiff, Marilyn Jo Kelsay, filed a complaint in the circuit court of Livingston County, seeking compensatory and punitive damages against her ex-employer, Motorola, Inc. The plaintiff alleged that her employment with defendant had been terminated as retaliation [***2]  for her filing a workmen's compensation claim. The trial court directed a verdict in plaintiff's favor and the jury assessed damages in the amount of $ 1,000 compensatory damages and $ 25,000 punitive damages. The court remitted the compensatory damages to $ 749, which represents the wages plaintiff lost between the time she was discharged and the time she found a new job. On appeal, the Fourth District Appellate Court reversed the judgment of the trial court, holding that an employee has no cause of action against an employer for retaliatory discharge. (51 Ill. App. 3d 1016.) Because a different panel of the same court reached a contrary result in an opinion filed on the same day ( Leach v. Lauhoff Grain Co. (1977), 51 Ill. App. 3d 1022), the appellate court issued a certificate of importance to this court (see 58 Ill. 2d R. 316) so that we may resolve the conflict.

Plaintiff suffered a cut to her thumb while working at the Motorola factory in Pontiac. She received immediate medical  [**356]   [****562]  attention at a local hospital, where her thumb was stitched. She returned to work later that same afternoon. Shortly thereafter, plaintiff sought advice of  [*179]   [***3]  counsel regarding a workmen's compensation claim for her thumb injury. Counsel sent notice of the impending claim to the employer, Motorola, Inc.

Plaintiff spoke with the personnel manager at the Motorola plant, Donald Aherns, after he received notice of the workmen's compensation suit. Aherns told plaintiff that the corporation was aware of the situation, that she would be "more than adequately compensat[ed]" by the corporation for her thumb injury, and that there was no need for her to follow through with her claim. He also informed the plaintiff that it was the corporation's policy to terminate the employment of employees who pursued workmen's compensation claims against it, and advised the plaintiff to "think about it" a little longer. Plaintiff, however, decided to proceed with her claim and, after informing Aherns of her final decision, was discharged. Her compensation claim against Motorola was eventually settled. Subsequently, as noted above, plaintiff sought relief in the Livingston County circuit court against defendant, Motorola, for her retaliatory discharge by the corporation.

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74 Ill. 2d 172 *; 384 N.E.2d 353 **; 1978 Ill. LEXIS 385 ***; 23 Ill. Dec. 559 ****; 115 L.R.R.M. 4371

MARILYN JO KELSAY, Appellant, v. MOTOROLA, INC., Appellee

Subsequent History:  [***1]  Rehearing Denied January 25, 1979.

Prior History: Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Fourth District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Livingston County, the Hon. Samuel Harrod III, Judge, presiding.

Disposition: Appellate court reversed; circuit court affirmed in part and reversed in part.

CORE TERMS

retaliatory discharge, punitive damages, workmen's compensation, cause of action, the Act, employees, civil remedy, public policy, rights, discharged, damages, of the Act, remedies, compensatory damages, appellate court, civil action, terminate, argues, cases, instant case, compensation claim, the will

Governments, Courts, Common Law, Workers' Compensation & SSDI, Remedies Under Other Laws, Compensability, Course of Employment, General Overview, Injuries, Accidental Injuries, Coverage, Actions Against Employers, Intentional Misconduct, Defenses, Fellow Servant Doctrine, Legislation, Statutory Remedies & Rights, Labor & Employment Law, Employment Relationships, At Will Employment, Duration of Employment, Exceptions, Tort Exceptions, Public Policy Violations, Wrongful Termination, Public Policy, Remedies, Business & Corporate Compliance, Workers' Compensation & SSDI, Administrative Proceedings, Fraud, Retaliatory Discharge Actions, Civil Procedure, Judgments, Preclusion of Judgments, Full Faith & Credit, Judicial Precedent, Damages, Punitive Damages, Torts, Types of Damages, Punitive Damages, Trials, Jury Trials, Province of Court & Jury