The last two years have made people crazy. The types of calls I get have changed. I’ve never spoken to more people who have a clear mental illness than I have recently. I’ve also never been contacted by more people who have been attacked on the job. It’s not just people trying to enforce mask requirements on customers. It’s a lot of people who have much shorter fuses than normal. I blame this on the stress of the pandemic and some people feeling empowered to act out.
When you are physically attacked on the job in Illinois, to get workers comp benefits we look at two main things:
1. Who was the aggressor?
2. Is the attack related to your job duties or a risk of your job?
As far as who is the aggressor, if you go up to a co-worker and punch them in the face, and they respond by beating you up, you won’t likely have a work comp case. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission is not going to reward the person who starts a fight, even if they lose it badly and end up with a terrible injury. The possible exception would be if there was a calming down period and then the fight was re-started by someone else. But generally speaking, if you start it then you are out of luck.
Most cases come down to the second point of why the fight happened. If your co-worker is mad at you for something you said about their spouse or because you ripped on the Bears or something else that has nothing to do with your job duties, any attack would not likely be covered by workers compensation laws. You have to show something about the fight was work-related. That typically means you were arguing over a work schedule, work not done, who is responsible for certain work, etc.
So if your boss tells you that you messed something up, you say you didn’t and in response, he punches you in the face, that would be a case. If you tell a co-worker to carry a bucket and they throw it at you because they don’t want to do it, that would be a case.
These rules also apply to attacks by customers. It’s kind of odd, but if you work in a “bad” neighborhood and get randomly attacked by a customer or some other outside person, you’ll likely get benefits. It’s assumed there is an increased risk of this happening in “bad” neighborhoods. In addition, if a customer is mad over masks, prices, having to wait, or anything else related to your job, if they attack you then you’d also have a workers compensation case.
My advice to anyone who is attacked is to call the police. Those people deserve to be arrested and some of the information the police get can be helpful to your work comp case. And of course, receive treatment if you are injured. If you don’t have an injury then there isn’t much of a work comp case.
If you have any questions about this law, feel free to contact us to speak with an attorney any time. All calls are free and confidential.