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Workers’ Compensation and Retaliatory Discharge

Workers’ Compensation and Retaliatory Discharge

Under Illinois law, most employers are required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance to ensure that any employees who are injured on the job have access to medical coverage and wage replacement. While many employers are careful to abide by these laws, it is also not uncommon for an employer to try to get out of paying workers’ compensation benefits by denying legitimate claims or by firing the employee outright. This type of conduct is strictly prohibited under state law, so employees who are discharged out of retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim are often eligible to recover reimbursement for lost wages, lost benefits, medical expenses, and could even be granted reinstatement.

Unfortunately, filing this type of claim can be difficult, especially for those who do not have legal representation, so if you were recently discharged for filing a workers’ compensation claim, you should strongly consider speaking with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can explain your legal options.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Employees who are injured on the job and who properly file workers’ compensation claims can collect benefits until they recover. This could include compensation for:

  • Reasonable medical care;
  • Temporary total or partial disability benefits;
  • Vocational rehabilitation;
  • Permanent partial or total disability benefits; and
  • Death benefits.

Unfortunately, some employers try to avoid paying out these benefits by discharging employees who are hurt while on the job. This is referred to as retaliatory discharge and is strictly prohibited under state law as a form of wrongful termination.

What is Retaliatory Discharge?

Retaliatory discharge is a type of wrongful termination that involves firing an employee for doing something that he or she had a right to do, such as filing a workers’ compensation claim. Although the Workers’ Compensation Act does not expressly provide a cause of action for this type of discharge, Illinois courts have long held that retaliatory termination is a violation of public policy. For this reason, a wronged employee can seek a civil remedy in the form of damages, but only if he or she can prove that:

  • He or she was an employee before the injury;
  • He or she exercised a right granted by state law; and
  • He or she was discharged because of the assertion of that right.

It is important to note that employers are not prohibited from firing employees just because they file a workers’ compensation claim. In fact, Illinois courts have held on a number of occasions that employers can not be held liable for retaliatory discharge if an employee was fired for:

  • Filing a false workers’ compensation claim;
  • Violating a company rule that requires employees to notify the company when they can return to work; and
  • Excessive absenteeism in violation of company rules.

However, as long as an employer can not provide evidence of a valid, non-retaliatory basis for discharging an employee after he or she filed a workers’ compensation claim, the wronged individual can recover compensation for lost wages and benefits, medical bills, and in some cases, can even collect punitive damages from the employer.

Contact an Experienced Chicago Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you were fired after filing a workers’ compensation claim, please call 312-332-5400 today to speak with one of the dedicated workers’ compensation lawyers at Saks, Robinson & Rittenberg, Ltd. about your case.

If you have been injured in a personal injury or work-related accident, do not hesitate to contact our office at (312) 332-5400

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