Retaliation cases are cases brought by injured workers who have been fired because they filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Injured workers are entitled to benefits under Illinois law and employers are not supposed to get in the way of that. If they do, it might lead to a retaliatory discharge lawsuit.

Sometimes, an employer who doesn’t understand or respect the law will tell an employee that they shouldn’t file a claim. Even worse, some will punish an employee who does file a claim. Generally, employees aren’t allowed to sue their employer over a work injury, but they can sue if they are a victim of retaliation.

In a retaliatory discharge lawsuit, you can get two types of damages. Damages are the money you are asking for in your lawsuit. You get compensatory damages, which compensate you for your financial loss. This usually includes lost earnings, yet it also can include other financial loss such as loss of pension benefits. Pain and suffering damages might be available, as well. And if you can prove that the employer acted with malice, you can ask for punitive damages, which essentially punish the employer and force them to pay more for breaking the law and doing so with knowledge of what they were doing.

Injured workers who have a claim in Illinois can get all of their medical bills covered. They also get temporary total disability payments if they can’t work for a period of time while they get treatment and recover. You can request benefits by filing a claim with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. Usually, it’s your employer’s insurance company that pays the benefits we described.

The law in Illinois tries to protect workers who need benefits. You shouldn’t have to be afraid that your employer will hold it against you or that you’ll end up jobless if you go after the help you need for medical bills and lost wages.

Just because you get fired after an injury, it doesn’t mean you automatically have a retaliation claim. You can be fired for an ordinary reason, just like any other employee. The rule is that you can’t be fired because you filed a claim or said you intended to do so. Illinois is an “at-will” employment state, which mean that an employer can fire an employee for any reason at any time, as long as it’s not illegal discrimination. So, proving the reason for your termination is the key to a good case.

You also have to be an actual employee, although your status as an independent contractor should be confirmed by an employment attorney. Employers have been known to misclassify the people who work for them.

By Michael Helfand