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Ways Your Employer May Try to Fire You After a Workers' Compensation ClaimYour employer cannot fire you in retaliation for you filing a workers’ compensation claim. Doing so would allow you to file a wrongful termination lawsuit and could also result in criminal penalties against your employer. However, your employer can legally terminate your employment after you have filed a workers’ compensation claim if there is another reason for your termination. If you believe that your employer is punishing you for your injury claim, you must document your employer’s actions as evidence of their retaliation.

Reasons for Firing

Most employers are smart enough to not tell you that they are firing you because of your workers’ compensation claim. However, your employer could be looking for an excuse to fire you that they can say was unrelated to your claim. Valid reasons to terminate your employment could include:

  • Misconduct on your part;
  • Layoffs due to a declining budget;
  • Not having a job that can accommodate your physical restrictions after you have reached maximum medical improvement; or
  • You refusing to accept a new position with your employer that accommodates your needs.

Firing you would not let your employer’s insurer off the hook for your workers’ compensation claim. You could still receive a settlement and benefits for your injury. Instead, your employer may be trying to replace you with a healthy employee who has no work restrictions.

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Farm Owners Have Different Rules for Workers' CompensationAgricultural work has the potential to cause serious or fatal injuries, but workers compensation benefits may not be available in some cases. Illinois’ Workers’ Compensation Act states that it does not apply to owners of agricultural enterprises unless they have employees who work a combined 400 working days per fiscal quarter. Immediate family members of the owner do not count as employees if they live with the owner. Thus, the owner of a small farm is not required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance if he or she employs only a few helpers who do not work the required number of hours. This does not change the inherent dangers that come with agricultural work, including:

  1. Operating Hazardous Equipment: Farmers regularly use sharp tools that can cause serious cuts or lost appendages. They have power tools and heavy machinery that are dangerous if they malfunction or are not used properly. Large vehicles such as tractors are a threat to roll over when being driven or overturn when idle.
  2. Slips and Falls: Farmers may need to climb up ladders when working, which has the potential for fall-related injuries. The working area has many obstacles that can trip a worker and substances that may make the floor slippery. A worker may suffer further injury if he or she falls onto a piece of equipment.
  3. Grain Silos: Suffocation is a serious threat when working in a grain storage bin. Shifts in a pile of grain may cause it to collapse on a worker. Grain can behave like quicksand, making it difficult to escape from. An accumulation of grain dust can cause an explosion if it comes in contact with a heat source.
  4. Contaminants: Farmers may work with chemicals such as pesticides, which can be hazardous to humans. Working with animals may expose a farmer to diseases and infections. Long-term exposure to dust and chemicals in the air may cause chronic respiratory problems.

Contact a Crystal Lake Workers’ Compensation Attorney

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act’s exception for farm owners may not apply if your duties on a farm include more than agricultural work. Being hired to do construction or equipment maintenance may fall outside the legal definition of agricultural work.

Farm owners can still carry workers’ compensation insurance or farm liability coverage even if they are not required to. A McHenry County workers’ compensation attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can help you receive compensation for your farm-related injury. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838. 

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When Do You Need Witnesses for a Workers' Compensation Claim?You are the primary witness in your workers’ compensation case and the only necessary witness in many cases. In Illinois, you are not required to prove that anyone was negligent in order to receive workers’ compensation benefits. The arbitrator or court that is deciding your case needs to know that your injury occurred during the course of your work or as a consequence of your work duties. You may need other witnesses if your employer is casting doubt on the cause or extent of your injury. However, live testimony may be unnecessary even in these cases.

Expert Witnesses

Every workers’ compensation case should include records of all of your medical treatments and diagnosis of your physical condition. You can also call your physicians or a vocational expert as witnesses to testify during your case about:

  • The severity of your injuries;
  • Disabilities that resulted from your injuries; and
  • How your injury or disability will affect your ability to work.

Expert witnesses will often charge large fees in order to testify for a case. You should determine whether live testimony is necessary before you pay for an expert witness. Detailed reports from these experts may contain all of the information you need to establish your medical condition and future work limitations.

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Qualifying for Vocational Rehabilitation Maintenance PaymentsSuffering a permanent disability from a workplace injury may prevent you from resuming your previous job duties because of your physical limitations. Vocational rehabilitation trains you in new job skills that will qualify you for a job with more technical or interpersonal duties. An employer is required to offer you vocational rehabilitation when appropriate, and your workers’ compensation claim can give you maintenance during your rehabilitation that is equal in value to your Temporary Total Disability benefits. However, your employer may deny your maintenance if it disagrees with you about whether it must provide vocational rehabilitation.

Recent Case

In the case of Beverage v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, the claimant and his former employer disputed whether the employer was required to provide vocational rehabilitation and pay maintenance. The claimant had developed a degenerative disc disease that prevented him from performing a job that required him to lift cases of beer that could weigh as much as 50 pounds. The claimant requested vocational rehabilitation, but the employer instead invited him to apply for a warehouse manager position. The claimant did not apply because he did not believe he was qualified for the position. As part of his workers’ compensation benefits, an arbitrator awarded the claimant nearly 163 weeks of maintenance that started after his TTD benefits ended. A trial court nullified that decision because the claimant had not participated in a vocational rehabilitation program or searched for a job during that period.

Qualifications

The claimant stated that his former employer violated Illinois law by denying his request for vocational rehabilitation. The court responded that vocational rehabilitation was not necessary in this case because:

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Workers' Compensation Continues, Even If Your Employer Does NotWhat will happen to your workers’ compensation claim if your employer goes out of business? This scenario does happen and leaves claimants worried about whether they will receive the benefits they need while they recover and look for a new job. Fortunately, the status of your employer will not affect your workers’ compensation claim in most cases. The process could take a little longer, but the end result should still cover your medical expenses and lost income.

Insurance Coverage

Most employers provide workers’ compensation insurance through a third-party insurance company, who is responsible for paying your benefits. Your employer going out of business does not change the insurer’s ability to cover you in the event of a successful workers’ compensation claim. However, the process can be slower if your employer is unable to help its insurer with the case. There may be no one left in your employer’s human resources department to:

  • Assist the insurer with investigating your injury; or
  • Give the insurer your wage records.

You can provide paycheck stubs or other pay records to help move the process along. In some situations, your employer being closed can help with your workers’ compensation claim. The insurer likely wants to close your case quickly because your employer is no longer a paying client. A prolonged court battle may not be worth the cost to them.

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