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A concerned mother called me for her son.  He has been offered a job at a company in Illinois and was asked to sign a pre-employment contract.  That is itself isn’t unusual, but what was in it was very odd.

This “smart” employer believes he’s found a way around having workers’ compensation insurance. The contract he asked this kid and others to sign basically states that they know their job has risks of injury and that they agree that if they are hurt while working they will not be able to file a workers comp case.

I’m sure business owners would love it if ignoring the law were just that easy. Fortunately for workers, it’s not.

You can’t waive or be forced to give up your rights to claim work comp benefits in Illinois.  It’s against the law.

The good news is that even if this kid signs this contract, it can’t be used against him in any meaningful way if he files a claim at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.  If that was raised as a defense it would fail.  Quite honestly I don’t  know of any defense attorney who would even try it because they know it’s a joke and would be too embarrassed by it.

Where these b.s. contracts are effective for employers is that they harm some workers who are not aware of their rights.  They take their boss at their word when they say, “You can’t file for work comp, you signed a contract.”

Aside from being illegal, these contracts are also immoral and risky for workers.  If you put the claim through your group insurance and they find out that they shouldn’t have paid, they might come after you for reimbursement or withhold future payments.  You also will be stuck with out of pocket and co-pay expenses that you shouldn’t have to pay.  And of course you don’t get paid for your time off or get a settlement when you are better.

So the good news is that these contracts aren’t legal.  The bad news is that they are out there and they are being used to hurt workers.  Hopefully you don’t get caught up in this trap.