We have previously discussed a very beneficial change in the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission's Rule- benefiting front line employees and first responders. That emergency decision is now being challenged by Big Business in Illinois. The Illinois Retail Merchants Association and the Illinois Manufacturers Association, two of the largest trade organizations in Illinois, have recently filed a lawsuit challenging the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission's emergency rule change.
The emergency rule change allowed for employees who are first responders or front-line employees to receive a refutable presumption if infected with COVID-19. That presumption allows an employee to claim workers compensation benefits if he or she gets sick with COVID-19. The trade organizations claim the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission (IWCC) went too far. What these trade organizations fail to grasp is the emergency ruling making limits who receives the presumption to those in select industries. In addition, the trade organizations fail to acknowledge that the employer can refute the presumption. For instance, an employer could refute the presumption that the employee asserts by showing there are no other cases of COVID-19 at the place of employment. Alternatively, the employer could challenge refute the presumption with evidence others in the employees family receive an infection.
It is important to understand, workers compensation benefits are just that-benefits. Large insurance companies want the general public to believe a workers compensation claim is the same as a lawsuit. It is not. An employee affected by COVID-19 (what we were calling coronavirus a few weeks ago) is often without other benefits. The IWCC has the responsibility of protecting workers and balancing the hardship of the employer. While the trade organizations are describing the impact to their members, the main industry benefiting from challenging the lawsuit is the insurance industry. Illinois requires workers compensation coverage for employers (with a few exceptions). As such, the suit is more about insurance companies wanting to reduce potential claims than it is about protecting businesses which may or may not be impacted by COVID-19 litigation.