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Can I be Fired for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Illinois?

Posted on April 22, 2022

If you have been injured on the job, you will more than likely be entitled to compensation for your medical bills and lost wages if you are unable to work. However, can your employer terminate you for sustaining an injury or for collecting workers’ compensation?

The reality is that this is a complicated question. Technically, you cannot be fired because you sustained an injury or reported the injury, but you can still lose your job while collecting workers’ compensation benefits. Here, we want to discuss this relatively gray area in employment law.

This is a Tricky Area to Navigate – Termination Can Happen, But Only For Valid Reasons

Illinois is an at-will state when it comes to employment. This means that an employer can terminate a worker for just about any reason, so long as the reason does not violate state or federal law. However, terminating an individual because they have sustained a workplace injury or filed a claim with workers’ competition insurance is typically not an acceptable termination reason. In Arizona, and just about every other state in the country, there are various exceptions to the ability of an employer to terminate a worker:

  • Retaliation. Employers cannot terminate an employee as a result of retaliation for sustaining an injury or filing a workers’ compensation claim. However, determining that this is the reason a person actually lost their job can be challenging. If an individual believes they were terminated due to retaliation for their work injury or filing a claim, there will need to be evidence to support that there was no other reason why they were terminated. An employer could use or fabricate another reason for the termination. 
  • Discrimination. Individuals cannot lose their jobs as a result of workplace discrimination. If a work injury has left a person with a disability that prevents them from performing their job accurately, they could be terminated. However, employers usually have an obligation to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled workers that would allow the worker to continue their job. In these circumstances, reasonable accommodations will only need to be made if a person who has sustained an injury now has a disability recognized under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • Breach of contract. If there is an employment contract between the worker and the employer, there should be a section about workers’ compensation claims. A valid contract needs to include sections about whether or not the job is protected if a person begins receiving workers’ comp benefits. 

There are times when a person could lose their job after reporting a work injury and receiving benefits. Some of the various reasons why an employer may be able to terminate a worker who has already filed a workers’ compensation claim include:

  • The employee returns to work but is unable to perform the job at the same level they could before, and making accommodations would be unreasonably expensive for the employer.
  • There is no other position that can reasonably accommodate the worker’s post-injury physical capabilities.
  • This concerns a small business in Illinois that is unable to function without a person in the specific position the injured employee already filled. In these situations, the employer would likely be able to hire a new person for this position if there was no other option available to them.
  • Making accommodations would place unreasonable financial hardship on the employer (this exception exists even for disabilities recognized by the ADA). 

Call a Workers’ Compensation Attorney in Illinois Today

We strongly encourage you to contact a skilled Chicago workers’ comp attorney as soon as possible. These claims can become incredibly complicated, and you need to know whether or not an employer can legally terminate you for sustaining a workplace injury or reporting your injury to the workers’ compensation system.