Employer Discontinued Worker's Compensation After Termination
June 18, 2015
During oral arguments held at its March 2009 docket, the Illinois Supreme Court was asked to decide whether or not an Illinois employer, with an employee with a workers’ compensation claim, who is entitled to Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits pursuant to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, can discontinue its Illinois at-will employee’s right to those TTD benefits when that employee is terminated for cause or for “volitional conduct”. In a very meaningful opinion for Illinois Workers’ Compensation attorneys, the Supreme Court of Illinois held in its January 22, 2010 decision, that:
“Whether an employee has been discharged for a valid cause, or whether the discharge violates some public policy, are matters for and to workers’ compensation cases. An injured employee’s entitlement to TTD benefits is a completely separate issue and may not be conditioned on the propriety of the discharge.
For the reasons stated above, we hold that an employer’s obligation to pay TTD benefits to an injured employee does not cease because the employee had been discharged-whether or not the discharge was for “cause”. [T]he determinative inquiry for deciding entitlement to TTD benefits remains, as always, whether the claimant’s condition has stabilized. If the injured employee is able to show that he continues to be temporarily totally disabled as a result of his work-related injury, the employee is entitled to TTD benefits.”
In more simple terms, Illinois employers cannot terminate an Illinois employee’s right to TTD simply because the worker was fired with or without cause. Those rights continue until the employee’s condition has stabilized, or he or she has reached “maximum medical improvement.
In this particular cause of action, the Petitioner, Jeff Urban (Urban), was employed as an Illinois employee by Interstate Scaffolding, Inc. (Interstate), as a union carpenter when he sustained a work-related injury to his head, neck, and back. He was initially diagnosed with a mild concussion and cervical strain. Following his injury, he continued to experience persistent headaches, cervical pain, and numbness in his arms. After more conservative treatment failed, it was recommended by his employer’s Independent Medical Examiner that he undergo a spinal fusion operation. At first, Urban rejected the spinal fusion and opted to continue with further conservative treatment. As a result of his injuries, and at different times during the course of his treatment, Urban’s doctor instructed him not to work or placed him on “light duty” with restrictions.
During the course of his treatment, and before reaching maximum medical improvement, Urban was terminated for, among other things, writing religious graffiti or slogans in the storage room on Interstate’s premises. As a result of his termination, Interstate discontinued Urban’s TTD, and the issue eventually made its way to the Illinois Supreme Court, which issued the above ruling.