Can I be fired for collecting workers’ compensation?

pHandsPenAndWorkInjuryForm_6831603_sIllinois workers have the right to collect workers’ compensation when they sustain an injury out of and in the course of employment. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Diseases Act gives them this right. When an injury occurs and workers’ compensation is sought, there are various tasks that need to be completed. As every Chicago workers’ compensation attorney knows, one of those is notifying the employer.

In this context, one of the concerns for injured workers in need of workers’ compensation is the potential for retaliation from their employers. Even for employers who are properly insured for workers’ compensation cases, an injured worker is a costly event.

Employers lose a trained, performing worker. They may need to train and compensate a new worker in the interim. Their costs to remain covered by insurers for these events may rise. For these reasons, as a Chicago workers’ compensation attorney would be aware, the concern for retaliation may resonate with workers. One form of retaliation is terminating employment, which can be devastating for Illinois workers.

Illegal to discharge

According to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, injured workers cannot be fired for collecting workers’ compensation. From the IWCC’s Handbook on Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Diseases: “It is illegal for an employer to harass, discharge, refuse to rehire, or discriminate in any way against an employee for exercising his or her rights under the law.”

As the IWCC states, the illegality of retaliation extends beyond termination. Any form of discrimination or harassment on the basis of exercising the right to workers’ compensation is prohibited. In fact, according to the IWCC, any retaliatory actions on the part of the employer may give rise to a right to file a separate lawsuit for damages.

One important caveat is that workers with pending workers’ compensation claims can still be disciplined or fired for other valid reasons. In other words, injured workers in the middle of this process should not feel immune to the consequences of valid performance-related concerns.

Helpful reminders

It may be helpful to remember that workers’ compensation in Illinois is a no-fault system. This means that, even if the worker’s actions contributed to the injury, the right to receive benefits through workers’ compensation is unchanged. One implication of this feature of Illinois law is one less reason for employers to dispute or resent a claim for benefits.

Furthermore, injured workers seeking benefits should consider the nature of interaction when a workers’ compensation claim is filed. In most cases, the transaction is addressed between a Chicago workers’ compensation attorney and the employer’s insurer. This process leaves out management.