Illinois Workers’ Compensation No More?

Yesterday, in a voice vote, Representative John Bradley discovered he has enough votes to pass HB 1032. This bill seeks to abolish the workers’ compensation system and allow the claims of injured workers to proceed in Circuit Court. In response to this proposal, Senator Kyle McCarter “beefed up” SB1349 to include the laundry list of changes demanded by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. This list essentially guts the provisions of the Act which protects workers who are injured on the job. What is happening here? It was about 100 years ago that labor and management agreed that having workers file a claim for injury in civil court was too costly for business and resulted in too few claims which workers won. This agreement was a great compromise that resulted in the Workers’ Compensation system. Workers’ Compensation is a no fault system of benefits which limits the recovery of the employee. The social reasons for workers’ compensation programs are numerous. The system encourages safety in the workplace. If unsafe conditions give rise to more claims, the employer has an economic incentive to make the workplace safer. There is no question that workplaces are safer today than they were 100 years ago. The workers’ compensation system is responsible in great part for this increase in safety. Also, workers’ compensation allocates the costs of injuries directly to the workplace and not to the general public, i.e. the taxpayer. Senator McCarter’s proposal, if adopted, will surely shift the cost burden to the state and federal welfare systems.

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