While I know that insurance companies and not employers are usually the ones making the ridiculous denials of Illinois workers’ compensation cases, I’m still surprised when an employer goes along with it.
The most recent example was a case that was rightfully decided in favor of an injured worker. A custodian at a school was instructed to move furniture, desks and other items from one side of a classroom to the other so the carpets could be cleaned. After it was cleaned and dry, naturally the items had to be moved to the other side of the room so the other half of the carpet could be cleaned.
The custodian attempted to move a file cabinet with a dolly and while doing so he hurt his leg. He denied being told not to move any of the heavy items, but two other custodians testified that they were instructed not to move the file cabinets. In essence, the insurance company took a position that this worker was violating a safety rule when he got injured and took an unreasonable risk. When you do that you are not performing your job duties and don’t get work comp benefits if you are hurt.
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission saw through this nonsense and rightfully awarded benefits. Their reasoning was common sense. The custodian was clearly performing an activity that was for the benefit of his employer and in no way for his own benefit or convenience. He had been tasked with moving furniture in classrooms throughout the school so carpets could be cleaned. Even if he wasn’t asked to move the file cabinet, it was him trying to help that lead to him moving it. You don’t get punished for being a good worker.
This is way different than him goofing off or not doing his job. If he rode the dolly like it was a vehicle or swung it around in a playful manner, that would be different and likely not a case. This was just him doing his job as best he could. In a country where so many don’t work hard are we going to punish those who have a good work ethic?
To me, it’s ridiculous that this case was fought, but this is the system you deal with as an injured worker. Obvious cases aren’t always accepted and even when cases are paid at first, they are always looking for a reason to cut you off. Fortunately though the laws in our state mostly make sense and the Judges usually do a good job. So it sucks that this guy had to go to trial, but the system did its job.
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