New legislation proposed in Illinois in 2013 would change the rules of workers’ compensation payments, making it more difficult for some injured workers to receive benefits after a workplace accident. These changes to workers’ compensation law would have a considerable impact in a state where more than 150,000 on-the-job injuries occur every year.
New policies regarding employees discharged for cause
Under the proposed bill SB2625, employers would no longer be required to pay temporary partial disability to employees who have been terminated for cause. Employees who feel they have been unfairly fired and denied benefits would be able to request a hearing with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. If the termination is found not to be the employee’s fault, all benefits would be restored and retroactively paid from the time the employee became disabled.
Repeated injuries on the job
Another bill proposed in Illinois, SB2623, amends the Workers’ Compensation Act to decrease benefits for workers who have been injured repeatedly in the same part of their body. Under this new legislation, an employee who has already been awarded partial disability for a non-disfiguring injury to a specific body part will have the amount of that award deducted from any further claims for injury to that body part. Details of the bill include the following:
A shoulder injury is considered to be equivalent to an arm injury, and benefits already paid for one will be deducted from benefits paid for the other.
A hip injury is likewise considered to be equivalent to a leg injury.
The largest possible cumulative award for partial disability will be set at 500 weeks, which will be awarded for total loss of use of the employee’s body.
These regulations are designed to cut down on redundant claims and disproportionately high awards for minor injuries.
Controversy surrounding the proposed guidelines
Although the new guidelines proposed in Illinois would decrease costs for employers and insurers, arguably creating a healthier business climate, some labor advocates say that the guidelines would leave injured workers in danger of insufficient compensation. SB2623 could be especially problematic in hazardous jobs where a single part of the body is at risk many times a day or might be injured multiple times in an employee’s career. Under the new regulations of SB2625, unethical employers could also terminate injured workers for fictional causes to avoid paying costly workers’ compensation benefits.
If these new bills are approved, Illinois workers could find it more challenging to apply for benefits after a workplace illness or injury.