Many workers fear that their employment will be terminated if they file a workers’ compensation claim. For this reason, many ignore their injuries and suffer in silence for fear that they will lose their livelihood if they seek treatment.
“Many workers have been fired, or unceremoniously laid off following the filing of a workers’ compensation claim. It’s not as uncommon as people want to think. Most recently, Rodrigo Ortiz was fired from his position with Totall Metal Recycling after he had filed a workers’ compensation claim for sarcoidosis,” remarked Illinois workers’ compensation attorney Neal B. Strom.
Like many workers, Mr. Ortiz was exposed to toxic chemicals, smoke, and debris as he performed his work related duties. Over time, the hazardous work conditions that existed within the Totall Metal Recycling facility created severe inflammation. Indeed, sarcoidosis is a common injury for workers in manufacturing and recycling facilities.
In Illinois, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act prohibits an employer from terminating employment because a worker filed a workers’ compensation claim. The law considers this retaliatory discharge. Workers whose employment is terminated because they filed for workers’ compensation can seek both compensatory and punitive damages against their former employer.
“Retaliatory discharge is a secondary wound experienced by many workers. When it happens, employees are left injured and holding considerable medical bills, plus their ability to support themselves and their families is further reduced through the total loss of income. It is an unacceptable blow to both their dignity and their livelihood,” lamented Illinois workers’ compensation attorney Neal B. Strom.
When filing a case for retaliatory discharge that occurs after filing a workers’ compensation claim, the court will consider the employee’s employment history, behavior, the specifics of their injury, and the employer’s actions and reasoning for the termination. Should it be determined that the employer terminated a worker because of a work related injury, the courts can award significant punitive and compensatory damages.