Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, Illinois workers have a right to compensation, and employers are advised to be mindful of the potential liability they may confront in state court. There may be cases in which an employer would like to discharge an employee who has suffered an injury, or alleges to have suffered an injury, at work. However, terminating an employee following the employee’s complaint of having sustained an injury at work can prompt the employee to bring a civil lawsuit alleging retaliatory discharge against the employer.
The Illinois Supreme Court held in Clemons v. Mechanical Devices Co., 184 Ill. 2d 328, 336 (1998), that in order to successfully sue an employer, and allege retaliatory discharge based on the filing of a workers’ compensation lawsuit, an employee is required to prove: (1) that plaintiff was an employee prior to the injury; (2) that plaintiff used a right authorized by the Workers’ Compensation Act; (3) that plaintiff was terminated; and (4) that the termination had a causal relationship to the employee’s filing of a claim based on the Workers’ Compensation Act. The court in Clemons also ruled that if an employer presents a valid reason for terminating its employee that is believed by a jury, the causation component of the claim is not met.
Recently, a case arose in 2014 in Illinois Supreme Court, in which the court applied and added to the ruling in Clemons. In Michael v. Precision Alliance Group, LLC, 2014 IL 117376, the court held that the analysis is applicable to cases alleging retaliatory discharge in anticipation of bringing a workers’ compensation lawsuit. Therefore, if the terminated employee did not bring a Workers’ Compensation claim, and just informed the employer of the injury, the statement providing an account of the injury is probably sufficient to give rise to a lawsuit alleging retaliatory discharge. The employer is, thus, not protected from a retaliatory discharge lawsuit merely because the employee did not file a Workers’ Compensation claim.
If you suffered an injury in the workplace, and were subsequently discharged, you should consult a workers’ compensation attorney.
Paul Greenberg is a Chicago employment and workers’ compensation lawyer with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit www.briskmanandbriskman.com.