Few things are more stressful than missing work due to a workplace injury. Fortunately, systems such as workers’ compensation insurance were put in place to help protect workers from suffering financially while they recover from these injuries.
However, while workers’ comp can help with medical expenses and lost wages, it does not fully protect an injured worker’s job. If you’re reading this article, the question you may be asking is “Can I be fired while on workers’ compensation in Illinois.”
Put simply — yes. You can be fired while on workers comp. However, you cannot be fired because you filed a workers’ comp claim in Illinois. This crosses the line into retaliation and possibly even discrimination.
In This Article:
- What is Workers’ Compensation Insurance?
- What Can You Legally Be Fired For in Illinois
- Does My Employer Have to Hold My Job While on Workers’ Comp?
- Will I Still Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits If I Was Fired?
- Signs That You Were Illegally Fired for Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim
- How Can I Prove I Was Wrongfully Terminated?
- When Should I Contact a Lawyer?
What is Workers’ Compensation Insurance?
Workers’ compensation insurance is a type of insurance that helps cover the expenses associated with a workplace injury. Most employers in Illinois are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, so when an employee is injured, their insurance covers the cost of providing benefits. Many Chicago workers will be eligible to collect workers’ compensation and should not hesitate to file a claim for these benefits if injured at work.
Workers’ compensation is meant to help cover the expenses associated with recovering from a work-related injury. This includes coverage for hospital bills, treatment, and lost wages. Workers’ comp is a no-fault system so there is no need to prove negligence like other personal injury cases.
What Can You Legally Be Fired For in Illinois
Illinois is an at-will employment state, meaning that unless otherwise stated in an employee contract, you can quit your job for any reason without notice. But it also means that you can be fired for any legal reason by your employer. The Illinois Workers’ Rights Act protects workers from being fired due to their protected class, such as national origin, gender, or age.
However, if you violated company policies, made mistakes at work, your job performance suffered before you got hurt, or if you are unable to perform your job duties due to your injury, your employer may have probable cause for termination.
Does My Employer Have To Hold My Job While On Workers’ Comp?
Work-related injuries are usually the result of an accident, one that may have been completely out of your control. So it may feel unfair to know that your employer is not obligated to hold your job while on workers comp. However, the Americans With Disabilities Act mandates that employers make reasonable efforts to accommodate workers with disabilities.
Injured workers who may be temporarily or permanently disabled following a workplace injury should be offered accommodations that would allow them to perform their work duties.
At the end of the day, the company is running a business that requires certain positions to be filled for it to function properly. Fortunately, many employers may try to find another position for you until you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) and can return to your normal job duties. However, they are not obligated to do so.
Will I Still Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits If I Was Fired?
Yes, absolutely. If you were fired while on workers’ comp, you will continue to receive workers’ comp benefits until you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) and have been released to return to work by your doctor. Until you have recovered enough to go back to work, you will receive either temporary total disability or temporary partial disability benefits.
Signs That You Were Illegally Fired for Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim
The Illinois Workers’ Rights Act requires employers to give a reason for termination. If you were fired by your employer after filing a workers’ compensation claim, and the reason they gave was unclear or they did not provide any reason at all, this may be the first sign that you were illegally fired for filing your workers’ comp claim.
There may be a few more signs that happen before you are laid off that may indicate retaliation for filing your claim. Remember that these signs are not definitive proof, and you may need to consult with an employment retaliation lawyer to understand your specific situation. Here are some signs to consider:
Your termination occurs soon after filing a workers’ comp claim. If there is a clear connection between your claim and your dismissal, it could be a potential indicator.
Lack of Legitimate Reasons
The reasons provided for your termination seem vague, inconsistent, or unsubstantiated. If your employer fails to provide reasonable justifications for your termination, it may suggest a wrongful motive.
You notice that you were treated differently from other employees who faced similar situations or had similar performance issues. If your employer specifically targets you while others in comparable circumstances are not reprimanded, it could imply retaliation.
Negative Comments About Your Claim
If your employer or supervisor makes disparaging remarks about your workers’ compensation claim, such as stating that it is a burden for the company or suggesting that you are faking your injury, it might indicate a bias against your claim.
Prior Positive Evaluations or Performance
If you had a history of positive performance reviews or a solid work record before filing the workers’ comp claim, and your termination occurs shortly afterward, it could be indicative of retaliation.
Lack of Documentation
Your employer fails to provide appropriate documentation or warnings regarding performance issues leading up to your termination. If there is a lack of evidence or proper documentation of any performance-related problems, it might suggest a pretextual reason for your dismissal.
If you have colleagues who can attest to discriminatory or retaliatory behavior related to your workers’ compensation claim, their statements can support your case.
Inconsistent Policy Application
If your employer deviates from established policies and procedures when it comes to your termination, it might indicate a wrongful motive. For example, if your employer typically offers a warning or probationary period for performance issues but terminates you without following this process, it could be suspicious.
Remember that these signs are not definitive proof, and each situation is unique. If you suspect that you were wrongfully terminated due to your workers’ compensation claim, it is advisable to consult with a workers’ compensation attorney who can evaluate the specifics of your case and provide appropriate guidance.
How Can I Prove I Was Wrongfully Terminated?
It can be difficult to prove that you have been wrongfully terminated for filing a workers’ comp claim. It’s best to immediately contact a workers’ compensation lawyer if you suspect any wrongdoing. Keep in mind that your termination had to have occurred within 90 days of filing a claim for your work-related injury.
An attorney will help by collecting evidence, speaking to witnesses, and investigating your case to prove illegal retaliation for filing your workers’ comp claim. If successful, you will receive compensation for your retaliation case in addition to receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
Note that contracted employees may have specific conditions of employment. Having an experienced employment lawyer review your contract may be an important step to take to determine if you were wrongfully terminated for your claim.
When Should I Contact a Lawyer?
If you believe you were wrongfully terminated for reporting a workplace injury or filing a workers’ compensation claim, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you reach out about your suspicions, the easier it will be to build a case against your employer. Proving retaliatory termination can be a difficult task and not one to embark on without legal expertise.
At Disparti Law Group Accident & Injury Lawyers, we are experts in employment law. We are here to level the playing field against big companies and employers and to protect the rights of hardworking workers in Chicago and throughout all of Illinois. Get started today with a FREE case review. Call (312) 600-6000.