The fundamental purpose of the law is to bring order and justice to the complexities of human relations. It is in this spirit that we address your concerns regarding the often tumultuous intersection of workers' compensation, wrongful termination, and discrimination in the state of Illinois.
In Illinois, the law treads a fine line, balancing the scales between the prerogatives of employers and the rights of employees. Of particular concern are instances where these scales tip unjustly — specifically, where an employee, having exercised the lawful right to file a workers' compensation claim, finds themselves wrongfully terminated or subjected to discrimination.
When an employee is dismissed for asserting their rights under workers' compensation statutes, such action not only undermines the individual's livelihood but also contravenes the broader principles of equity and fairness. In Illinois, the law provides safeguards against such unjust practices, offering a recourse for those who have been wronged. These protections are rooted in both state statutes and case law. Some of these safeguards include:
1. Illinois Workers' Compensation Act (IWCA):
Protection against Retaliation: The IWCA expressly prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the Act. This includes filing a workers' compensation claim or testifying in another employee’s workers’ compensation case.
Civil Remedies: Employees who face retaliation, including wrongful termination, for filing a workers' compensation claim may also be able to file a civil lawsuit against their employer. Through this lawsuit, they can seek damages, including lost wages and benefits, emotional distress, and in some cases, punitive damages.
2. Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA):
Broad Anti-Discrimination Protections: The IHRA prohibits discrimination in employment on various grounds, including disability. An employee who is discriminated against due to a work-related injury may have grounds for a claim under the IHRA.
Reasonable Accommodation: The IHRA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, which can include those resulting from workplace injuries.
3. Legal Recourse Through Common Law:
Common Law Claims: Apart from statutory protections, employees may also have common law remedies for wrongful termination. This can include claims based on breach of contract or violation of public policy, especially if an employee is terminated for reasons that are against the fundamental principles of state policy, such as filing for workers' compensation.
4. Whistleblower Protections:
Illinois Whistleblower Act: This act protects employees who report illegal activities, including violations of workers' compensation laws, from retaliation by their employers.
Simultaneously, the issue of discrimination in the aftermath of workers' compensation claims is also protected. In Illinois, the law unequivocally condemns discriminatory practices against employees who exercise their right to claim compensation for workplace injuries. Specifically, discrimination against any employee who exercises their workers' compensation rights is prohibited by:
Section 4(h) of the IWCA: This section is particularly crucial. It states that it is unlawful for an employer to discharge or threaten to discharge or to refuse to rehire or recall an employee because of the exercise of his or her rights or remedies granted to him or her by the IWCA.
Retaliation Prohibition: The IWCA specifically prohibits any form of retaliation or discrimination against an employee for filing a workers' compensation claim. This includes not only termination but also demotions, pay cuts, or other forms of adverse employment actions taken because an employee has claimed or intends to claim workers' compensation.
Navigating the pathways to legal redress in cases of wrongful termination or discrimination is akin to traversing a complex maze. The process involves understanding the procedural nuances, from filing a claim to presenting the necessary evidence, all within the framework set by Illinois statutes. Our workers' compensation attorneys are dedicated to ensuring that the rights of Illinois workers are protected with integrity and expert legal acumen. If you are facing challenges in wrongful termination or discrimination related to workers' compensation claims, we invite you to contact us to see how we can help.