If an employee is fired after suffering a work-related injury, his or her benefits should remain intact. Furthermore, he or she may have an additional claim against the employer for retaliation.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits
In Illinois, an employee who sustains a work-related injury is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The workers’ compensation system is a tradeoff for an employee not suing his or her employee. In exchange, the employee receives certain medical and monetary benefits if he or she sustains an accident at work. Additionally, he or she does not have to prove that the employer was negligent or that this negligence is what caused the accident. Employers benefit from this system by not having to pay a large jury award in a lawsuit.
Workers’ compensation typically covers all of the medical expenses associated with the work-related injury. Additionally, employees who are unable to return to work or who can only return for light duty are often eligible for total temporary disability benefits. These are equal to 2/3 of the employee’s average weekly wage. These benefits last until the employee is fully recovered or has improved as much medically as is possible under the circumstances. Workers’ compensation benefits support an injured employee’s recovery and financial loss. These benefits remain in place even if an employee is terminated.
Right to Fire
Like many states, Illinois is an at-will employment state, meaning that the employment relationship is at the will of both parties and can be ended at any time for any legal reason. An at-will employer can typically fire an employee for any reason or no reason at all. However, an employer cannot fire an employee for an illegal reason, such as for retaliation because the employee asserted his or her legal right under certain protected activity.
An employer may attempt to shirk its responsibility by firing an injured employee and refusing to pay workers’ compensation benefits. However, it is illegal for an employer to fire an employee because he or she filed a workers’ compensation claim as this action is a legally protected act. For an employee to prevail on a retaliation claim, his or her workers’ compensation attorney must prove the following elements:
- He or she was an employee before he or she suffered a work-related injury
- He or she exercised a right granted by the Workers’ Compensation Act
- His or her discharge is related to the exercise of the legally-protected right