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The Illinois workers’ compensation system protects employees who are injured on the job by replacing lost wages while they recover. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (www.iwcc.il.gov/) administers the law.

The system works as a no-fault guarantee. Employees who can show they were hurt while working can receive a portion of their earnings and paid medical care for their injuries. They needn’t prove that their employer was negligent. In exchange for the no-fault guarantee, workers can’t sue for negligence to collect far more than just lost wages and medical payments.

In some situations, employees aren’t eligible for workers’ comp payments. For example, they can’t collect benefits if the injury:

  • Isn’t accidental within the meaning of the law. (Intentional acts by co-workers are considered accidental since the injured worker couldn’t have anticipated them in the normal course of work.)
  • Didn’t arise out of employment.
  • Didn’t occur within the course of employment.

What if the employee was intoxicated when an injury occurred? The employer isn’t necessarily off the hook for paying benefits. The employer can use drinking as a defense only if the intoxication made the worker totally incapacitated and contributed to the injury.

Further, unlike in many other states, employers are always responsible for the negligent actions of co-workers when they’re acting within the scope of their jobs. That means employers can’t use the so-called “fellow servant” rule as a defense.

Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law, employers are held accountable for a variety of workplace injuries: for instance, those that occur in common areas of the workplace, such as parking lots, driveways and entrance roads.

Virtually all Illinois businesses must carry workers’ comp insurance. Employers can apply to the state’s Workers’ Compensation Commission for permission to self-insure or may post a bond guaranteeing payment to injured workers. Partners and sole proprietors aren’t required to carry workers’ comp coverage but may opt in to the program.

Tips for reducing workers’ comp costs

One way you can reduce your workers’ comp costs is to encourage employees to return to work as soon as they’re able.

You can, for example, make available light-duty positions for injured employees who may not be ready to return to more demanding jobs. Work with your insurance carrier to develop a light-duty program.

The ADA, FMLA and workers’ compensation

Employees injured at work also may be disabled under the ADA or the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) and have a serious medical condition under the FMLA.

Make sure you handle any unpaid leave and reasonable accommodations, such as light-duty work or intermittent leave, by coordinating IHRA, ADA and FMLA claims with the insurance carrier. Nothing will sink a case faster than evidence that an employer acquiesced to a workers’ comp claim but denied an FMLA claim for the same condition.
Excerpted from Illinois’ 10 Most Critical Employment Laws, a special bonus report available to subscribers of HR Specialist: Illinois Employment Law. 


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