The Illinois Supreme Court has historically been progressive in terms of expanding Illinois law to keep pace with the realities of life in our modern world. Illinois was a leader in recognizing an action against employers who terminated employees for filing Workman's Compensation Claims. Recently the Illinois Supreme Court established the tort of intrusion upon seclusion which will impact employer/employee relationships as well as other matters.
In Lawlor v North American Corporation of Illinois, the employer suspected that the employee was violating a non-compete agreement by referring business to a competitor. The employer hired an investigator to investigate the possible breach of the non-compete agreement. The investigator in turn hired another investigative agency who obtained information about the employees telephone calls on a pretextual basis by calling the phone company and pretending to be the employee. The court found that the employer could be held liable for the acts of both sets of investigators because it was an intentional intrusion into the private affairs or seclusion of another and the intrusion was highly offensive to a reasonable person.
This recent case shows that there are limits on employers and their probing into the private affairs of employees. The recognition of the tort of Intrusion upon Seclusion has other obvious applications including the stalking/harassment of ex boyfriend/girlfriend situation, family disputes, business partner disputes, and the tabloid newspaper delving into private matters of celebrities. This will be an interesting area of the law to see what develops and what cases are filed.