Keeping Your Job
When you’ve been injured on the job and are thinking about filing a workers compensation claim, you may be wondering whether filing a claim will have an effect on your job. It’s natural to worry about how your employer might react when you file a claim. After all, you need your job to support your family and can’t afford to get fired. At the same time, you’re seriously hurt and need medical care that you can’t afford out of your own pocket. You need the workers comp benefits while you recover.
In Illinois, the Workers Compensation Act, 820 ILCS 305, includes a provision that protects workers from retaliation when they file workers compensation claims. The act makes it illegal for employers or the insurance company providing your employer’s workers compensation insurance to:
- Fire you
- Threaten to fire you
- Refuse to rehire or recall you
- Interfere with, restrain, or coerce you
- Discriminate against you
If any of these actions are taken against you solely because you pursue a workers compensation claim, you could file a lawsuit alleging retaliation in violation of Illinois law. Such a lawsuit would be separate from your workers compensation claim and would only address the retaliatory behavior and not your underlying injuries or disability.
If you are successful with a retaliation lawsuit, you may be compensated for financial damages such as lost wages or lost pension benefits. If you can demonstrate that your employer acted maliciously in firing or discriminating against you based on your workers comp claim, a jury may award punitive damages.
Although an employer can’t fire you for making a workers comp claim, Illinois is an at-will employment state and having a workers comp claim in process won’t protect you from being fired for other reasons. At-will employment means that an employer can fire you at any time for any reason, other than reasons that are legally prohibited. So if you show up late or make a mistake on your job or your employer lays people off because of an economic downturn, you still could find yourself out of a job.
Where at-will employment and workers compensation can get tricky is when an employer uses a pretext to fire you, but in reality is retaliating for the workers comp claim. If you believe the reason for your firing was a pretext to cover your employer’s desire for retaliation, you may be able to pursue a lawsuit. However, retaliation can be difficult to prove without solid evidence of your employer’s intention.
How a Lawyer Can Help
If you’re concerned about retaliation or discrimination because of a workers compensation claim, an experienced Chicago workers comp lawyer can help protect your rights through the process and make sure that your employer is complying with the Illinois Workers Compensation Act or faces the appropriate consequences for violating the law.