Although it gets celebrated at times by our society, I find it sad when someone is working a job when they are in their golden years. It’s one thing if you love working. It’s completely different if you are in your 70’s or 80’s (or older) and working because you have to.
Typically workers of that age who have to work are not able to do a ton of different jobs. So when they get injured, while a much younger worker might recover, my experience is that these older workers often can never go back to work. Under Illinois workers’ compensation law, they often are found to be permanently and totally disabled. That doesn’t mean that they are unable to function but does mean that there isn’t a real job market for them.
Take for example a recent case against a staffing agency in Illinois. An 80-year-old worker slipped and fell on the job, fracturing his right hip. He underwent a major surgery with hardware put in to place and then went through a series of physical therapy sessions. After being discharged from his doctor’s care, he had permanent restrictions of sedentary work. This is very common in my experience as you wouldn’t expect a person in their 80’s to have surgery and then head back to a labor-intensive job.
The company he was working for created a job for him that required him to write down names and phone numbers of businesses from the Yellow Pages. Prior to this time, he had worked as a meat cutter for 50 years and as a manager at a local store. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission found that the employer had created a busy work job for him. Basically, there’s no stable labor market to sit at a desk and go through the Yellow Pages for eight hours a day.
Essentially, the staffing agency took the attitude it seems of, “If we have to pay him, he’s not going to like it.” Given that they are a staffing agency, you’d think that if a job existed within his restrictions that he was qualified for, they would have found it for him and made an appropriate job placement. That didn’t happen and as a result, he was awarded permanent disability benefits. He will receive those payments for the rest of his life.
While this case is recent, we’ve seen so many like it before. Employers take you as they find you. The reality is that older workers are much more likely to be limited after a serious injury. If that causes a case that would normally be worth $25,000 to be suddenly worth $125,000, that’s just how it works.
When you are in a position like this worker is, you are found to be an odd-lot permanent total. Nobody is saying you can’t do any work, but rather there isn’t a stable labor market for you based on your injury, age, job history, and education. It’s not realistic to train an 80-year-old for a computer job. And when a staffing agency has no work for you, it tends to show that nobody would.