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Labor Unions and Illinois Workers’ Compensation Claims

Posted on March 17, 2022

Illinois requires every employer to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This is designed to pay for a person’s medical bills if they sustain an on-the-job injury, as well as a significant portion of their lost income if they cannot work. However, when a person is in a union, they may be entitled to benefits above and beyond what is usually covered through a typical workers’ compensation claim. Here, we want to discuss how being in a labor union may change your workers’ comp claim.

What Most People Are Entitled to Through Illinois Workers’ Comp

Nearly every employee in Illinois is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in the event they sustain an on-the-job injury. These benefits include the following:

  • Complete coverage of all medical treatment needed for the injury (emergency care, prescription medications, physical therapy and rehabilitation, etc.)
  • Permanent total disability benefits
  • Permanent partial disability benefits
  • Temporary total disability benefits
  • Temporary partial disability benefits
  • Vocational training if a worker is unable to return to their job
  • Death benefits for families of those who lose their life due to a work injury

How a Labor Union Can Affect Benefits

Studies from the University of Illinois indicate that there are around 200 public and private-sector labor unions in this state. Every labor union has its own contracts that members are required to adhere to, and these agreements outline workers’ compensation benefits a person will receive if they are injured on the job or sustain an occupational illness.

For an example of what one particular labor union says, let us look at the language of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) contract related to work injuries:

“Employees may receive up to one week of full pay without utilizing their sick leave or other benefits. If an employee wishes to see a medical professional during work hours for their work-related injury or illness, they require supervisor approval to do so without using sick leave.”

It is crucial to understand that every labor union has different wording in their contracts. The language will vary depending on the industry and what the union collective bargaining agreement outline states. Some unions may have more generous time away from work with pay, while other labor unions may not have any paid time away from work at full pay stipulated in the contract.

However, we do need to point out that labor union contracts cannot mandate that a person receive fewer benefits than what all workers are entitled to through the Illinois workers’ compensation laws. For example, under state law, workers will typically be entitled to approximately two-thirds of their average weekly wage if they cannot work for a period of time as a result of their injury. A labor union cannot stipulate that they receive less than this. The labor union can, however, allow for a person to receive more per day than this.

If you have sustained a workplace injury and are part of a labor union, we strongly encourage you to examine what your contract says about work injury claims. You should reach out to an Illinois work injury attorney who can help you handle every aspect of your claim.