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Court Rules Workers Need Not Notify Employer before Seeking Treatment

Posted on in Personal Injury

Illinois workers' compensation, McHenry County workers' compensation attorney, workers' compensation, workers' compensation statute, workers' compensation law, work injury claim, seek medical treatment, wrongful terminationWorkers' compensation statutes can be complicated, and companies often attempt to layer extra policies on top of them, making them even harder to understand. However, a recent federal court case in Illinois expanded the rights of workers seeking treatment for on-the-job injuries. The case relates to policies that corporations can put in place to govern how their workers receive medical treatment. The court ruled that a company may not require employees to notify a company before seeking medical treatment for an injury. While this case may yet be appealed, it could have important implications for workers looking to collect workers' compensation.

The Facts

The case relates to a package handler working for FedEx in 2011. The employee began complaining of a sore back, and therefore informed his supervisors. The company placed him on light duty work for a few days while he could recuperate. Close to a week after the initial report he sought medical treatment for his continuing pain. The physician's assistant who examined him cleared him to continue working. However, the physician's assistant also issued him a note instructing his employer to keep him on light duty until a proper physical examination could be performed.

When the employee handed this note over to the supervisor, the company terminated the employee. The supervisor cited a FedEx policy that required employees to provide notice to the company before seeking treatment for injuries that occurred while on the job. In response, the employee sued for wrongful termination because the policy interfered with his workers' compensation rights.

Legal Ramifications

In order to prevail on a wrongful termination claim related to workers' compensation, the package handler had to prove three things: he was an employee of the company; he exercised a right provided by the Illinois workers' compensation statute; and he was terminated for exercising that right.

The parties agreed that he was an employee and he was terminated for seeking medical treatment in violation of company policy. However, the disagreement was over whether that policy violated a right provided under Illinois workers' compensation law.

In the end, the court ruled that it did violate a right, which focused on the fact that Illinois law prevents employers from “interfer[ing] with . . . any exercise of the rights or remedies granted” to employees or for firing them for exercising those rights. The court held that requiring the worker to notify the company of the medical treatment was an unlawful interference with his or her rights.

Seek Help from An Experienced Illinois Workers' Compensation Attorney

If you have been injured on the job and would like to collect workers' compensation, or you believe your employer treated you improperly after seeking workers' compensation, seek help from an experienced McHenry County workers' compensation attorney today. Our firm is here to help you understand and enforce your rights.

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