It is against Illinois law to fire an employee because they brought a workers’ compensation claim. That doesn’t mean an injured worker can’t ever be fired. What it does mean is that you can be fired for other reasons, but if you can prove that they really fired you for getting work comp benefits, you could have a huge lawsuit on your hands. Some of those cases have resulted in multimillion dollar awards.
The goal of course is not to be fired. There is no way to guarantee that won’t happen as some bad companies will just break the law. But there are a lot of things you can do to protect yourself and minimize your chances of being let go or proving what happened to you was illegal.
1. Have a legitimate case. Most companies aren’t going to get rid of someone who was injured due to no fault of their own or who clearly isn’t making something up.
2. Don’t be a “career claimant.” There are some guys that treat work comp law in Illinois like a Christmas bonus. They’ll file a phony back strain case every year to get a couple of bucks. We don’t represent those people. If you bruise your leg and have to go to the doctor just once, you don’t need to file a case if the bill is paid. You do it when you have a bigger injury.
3. Be a good worker. Most companies don’t want to lose good employees, especially now with a labor shortage. If you are a hard worker who contributes, odds are they aren’t going to look to get rid of you because you had to miss some time with a legit injury.
4. Keep notes on anything said to you. The goal is to not get fired. But if you are let go because you brought on a work comp case, you need to prove the firing was illegal. Keep track of compliments and awards you get. Write down anything that is said to you about your injury. Who said it, when it was, where they were, etc. All of those things can help prove a case if you get to that point.
5. Get an attorney. This is important with smaller companies especially. Often just the appearance of having an attorney makes some bad bosses think that they can’t get rid of you because they are worried you will sue. Having a lawyer on your case shows that someone is looking out for your best interests and acts as a deterrent in many cases.
Taken together, all of these things give you the best protection possible. We work with labor law attorneys for our work injury clients if we do suspect they were illegally fired. If you would like to discuss a case, please call us for free at 312-346-5320 to speak with an attorney.