Is It Legal to Fire Someone for Speaking With Fellow Employees About Layoff Procedures ?

In Barr v. Kelso-Burnett Co., 106 Ill. 2d 520, 478 N.E.2d 1354, 88 Ill. Dec. 628 (1985), the plaintiffs alleged that they were fired for speaking with fellow employees about layoff procedures being used by their employer. The plaintiffs claimed that their discharge violated, inter alia, a policy in favor of free speech that they identified in the United States and Illinois Constitutions. The court rejected the plaintiffs' complaint, holding that a clearly mandated public policy had not been violated. But the grounds the Barr court ultimately gave for its decision was that the plaintiffs' discharge did not violate the public policy, not that it did not violate the constitutional provisions given as the source of the policy. Barr, 106 Ill. 2d at 528, 478 N.E.2d at 1357. The court noted that the test for determining if the complaint states a valid cause of action is whether the public policy clearly mandated by the cited provisions is violated by the plaintiff's discharge. The application of this test necessarily involves determining what the public policy is behind the enactment or adoption of the particular provision." Barr, 106 Ill. 2d at 527, 478 N.E.2d at 1357.