Without hearing the facts, you likely wouldn’t think just sitting on a chair could lead to an Illinois workers’ compensation case.  People sit in chairs every day of course.

But for one City of Chicago worker recently and hundreds of others every year, there are legit cases of work injuries that happen from trying to sit down.

Many office chairs have wheels and with that comes the risk that the chair could roll out from under you when you try to sit down. In the case of the Chicago worker, she did data entry and had been employed for 22 years.  Usually she worked in a cubicle with carpet and a standard chair with wheels. On the day she got hurt though, her office space was undergoing renovations and she was relocated to a temporary cubicle with a tile floor.

When she sat down at her desk the chair rolled away from under her and she fell to the ground. The end result was an injury to her hip and back.

The City likes to fight cases and they did so on this one so it ended up being resolved via Arbitration at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.  And the dispute was not a close one.

The Work Comp Commission has consistently found that in cases where a worker uses a chair with wheels, it creates an increased risk of injury and accidents that result from that are considered to be compensable. It didn’t hurt that her testimony was un-rebutted  and credible.  The fact that she was moved to a tile floor made the chair move more easily and she didn’t have any problems with the chair on the carpet.

To me this was an absurd denial of benefits as the case law is crystal clear. If the chair didn’t have wheels it wouldn’t be a case. If the carpet prevented the chair from moving, the City might have had a legitimate argument. But when a wheeled chair is on a tile floor, it’s not surprising that it would move and someone could fall out of it when they tried to sit down. Even if she was distracted or careless that doesn’t matter as long as she wasn’t goofing off or engaged in horse play.

These type of ridiculous denials seem to happen more with Government employers than anyone else.  The good news and bottom line is that they are very winnable cases and the case law is extremely strong in favor of injured workers. And if we had been their lawyer we likely would have filed for penalties and fees against the City because not paying benefits without any reason needs to be punished.