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Can I Be Fired for Filing Workers’ Compensation?

Chicago employers are required to provide workers’ compensation to their employees according to Illinois laws. Instead of suing the employer for an injury, the employee can instead collect benefits through workers’ compensation. This insurance covers workers who are injured while performing their jobs, allowing them to receive compensation for any time off of work, related medical expenses, and any pain and suffering.

Although workers’ compensation is clearly a mutually beneficial system, many workers feel unsure about filing a claim after an injury. They may be frightened of retaliation by the employer, including the possibility of being fired or punished in some other form. If you are a worker who has sustained an injury on the job, however, you are entitled to compensation and should not let an employer intimidate you into not filing a claim.

What Constitutes Retaliation

While the most obvious form of retaliation an employer might use against an employee is firing them, retaliation can mean any adverse action taken against the employee because they reported their injury and filed a claim. Some common forms retaliation might take in the workplace include:

  • Firing the employee;
  • Demotion;
  • A reduction in salary;
  • Negative work performance evaluations;
  • Cuts in work hours;
  • Changes in job assignment; and
  • Changes in shift.

Retaliatory measures are not restricted to actions related to a worker’s hours, wages, or job tasks. It may also come in the form of hostile attitudes or behavior towards the worker.

Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law and Employer Retaliation

In Illinois, it is not legally permissible for an employer to fire a worker for filing a workers’ compensation claim. The system is set up specifically to protect the worker from any retaliatory measures while they are seeking compensation benefits. Not only is it illegal for the employer to fire the employee, they cannot harass, discharge, or discriminate against the employee in any way. Doing so would be considered a retaliatory action according the the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.

In addition, workers are also protected under Illinois common law protections, which prevent the employer for firing workers for doing any of the following activities:

  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim for injuries sustained on the job;
  • Testifying in the workers’ compensation proceedings of another employee;
  • Refusing to participate in illegal acts;
  • Reporting misconduct perpetrated by the employer; or
  • Cooperating with law enforcement in criminal investigations of the employer or any co-workers.

However, the employer still may discipline or fire the injured worker who has a pending workers’compensation claim for other valid reasons unrelated to the claim. If a worker is fired after filing a workers’ compensation claim and terminated afterwards for what the employer states is an unrelated reason, but the worker suspects it is because they filed a claim, the worker should consult with an attorney regarding their options.

What To Do If Your Employer Retaliates After Filing a Claim

Because retaliation is considered illegal, an employer will likely disguise the fact that they are doing so. If you are an injured worker and suspect the employer is taking retaliatory action, you should speak to a supervisor or human resources and begin properly documenting the case. The employer may, in fact, be taking perfectly reasonable actions. However, if you really are being punished simply for filing a workers’ compensation claim, you can take action by filing a whistleblower, retaliation, or discrimination claim.

A whistleblower or retaliation lawsuit should be filed in the appropriate court within five years of the retaliatory action. If the injured employee can prove their case, they could be reinstated at work, receive back payments with interest, and other forms of compensation for damages. To file this type of claim it is best to speak with a workers’ compensation lawyer who can help build a strong case.

In addition, an injured worker should file a discrimination complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights within 180 days of the retaliatory action and the Illinois Department of Labor within 30 days of the retaliatory action. Both organizations have offices located in Chicago.

Workers’ Compensation Statute of Limitations

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