In the summer of 2012, a man working for an electrical company in Madison County claimed he was hurt while doing his job. Just like any worker injured in Illinois, he had the right to file for workers’ compensation benefits, which he did. After the man-made a workers’ compensation claim, however, he contends the company fired him in retaliation. The man then brought a lawsuit against the company for retaliatory discharge and willful and wanton conduct.
Although this man’s retaliation claim has yet to be proven in court, this type of case is not uncommon. Other Illinois employees have experienced retaliation by employers after filing workers’ comp claims. This is something that should not be tolerated, and injured workers should consult with an attorney if they experience any form of retaliation by their employers.
The Illinois workers’ compensation system is essentially an agreement between employers and employees. Employers accept the responsibility for workplace injuries and illnesses even if they are not directly to blame, and workers are compensated for these injuries through the workers’ compensation system instead of through suing their employer directly (and potentially receiving a larger sum).
The workers’ compensation system gives both sides more certainty and prevents sometimes lengthy and costly court battles. Unfortunately, despite this agreement between workers and employers, sometimes a company may retaliate against a worker for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Illinois is an at-will employment state, meaning that employees can be terminated for no reason or any reason (or choose to quit). Retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim, however, is an exception to this general rule. Courts recognize that employees would be reluctant to bring claims if they feared losing their job. Therefore, employees are allowed to bring claims against their former employers for retaliatory discharge.
A person claiming retaliatory discharge must be an employee of the business. Although this may seem straightforward, it can be complicated when dealing with independent contractors and temporary workers. A workers’ compensation attorney can provide further guidance in these situations.
An employee does not necessarily have to file for workers’ compensation benefits in order to claim retaliatory discharge. If an employee is fired prior to making a claim, but the employer knew of the injury, it could still be considered retaliation. Additionally, other employees who witnessed the injury and who are set to testify on behalf of the injured employee may also bring suits for retaliatory discharge even if they were not injured themselves.
Unfortunately, since Illinois is an at-will state, appropriate remedies for retaliatory discharge claims can sometimes be challenging to obtain. If you feel that you have been fired for requesting workers’ compensation benefits, contact an experienced Illinois attorney. An attorney can advise you of your rights and options, and advocate on your behalf to help ensure your case has the best possible chance for success.