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The availability of a federal remedy does not automatically preclude a state retaliatory-discharge claim.
IMI Cornelius Remcor, Inc., a manufacturer of soft drink dispensing machines, hired Janice Arres as a human resources administrator in 1996 and fired her three years later. In March 1999 the Social Security Administration informed Remcor that 10% of the W-2 forms filed by its employees showed names or numbers that did not agree with federal records. After cross-checking, Arres found that the fault lay with the workers rather than with Remcor. She believed that persons who would furnish bogus Social Security numbers must be aliens who lack visas that authorize work within the United States. Arres recommended to both her immediate supervisor, Dan Weinick, and Weinick's supervisor, Mike Long, that Remcor immediately fire these employees. According to Arres, Remcor's longstanding practice had been to discharge persons who furnished fraudulent information. At Long's direction, Weinick informed Arres that he would handle the situation. After consulting with the Social Security Administration and one of Remcor's attorneys, Weinick decided to send letters to the employees asking them to correct any errors. Arres believed that approach to be unlawful, and she refused to process the information employees submitted in response. Arres submitted that Remcor fired her because of this refusal, a step that she said constitutes retaliatory discharge in violation of Illinois law. Arres brought suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging that Remcor acted because of her race and national origin. She also contended that Remcor violated Illinois law by retaliating against her for attempting to follow immigration law. The district court granted summary judgment to Remcor. 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15177 (N.D. Ill. August 15, 2002). On appeal Arres has abandoned her claims under federal law and contends only that Illinois law blocks an employer from firing someone who tries to remove from the payroll aliens not entitled to work in the United States.
Does the existence of a federal anti-retaliation rule, 8 U.S.C. § 1324b(a)(5), foreclose any state remedy?
The court held that the district court incorrectly held that a federal anti-retaliation rule, 8 U.S.C.S. § 1324b(a)(5), foreclosed any state remedy because § 1324b(a)(5) did not provide a remedy for Arres. The court held, however, that the fact that Arres did not agree with counsel's view of Remcor’s legal obligations was not a justification for insubordination. Further, whether persons in Arres’ position were entitled to implement private understandings of federal immigration policy, free from any risk to their status within the firm, was a question of federal law alone.