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Employer Cannot Escape Responsibilities to Employee Under Worker’s Compensation Act

On Behalf of | Sep 29, 2021 | Worker's Compensation |

When employers attempt to avoid and/or dodge their responsibilities to claimants under the Illinois Worker’s Compensation Act (or “WCA”), this can be very irritating and frustrating to claimants-employees, as well as to arbitrators and the Commission. See Claimant establishes entitlement to PTD benefits under odd-lot category. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin, Volume 29, Issue 11, August 13, 2021, page 5.[1]  The case discussed in the article, City Water, Light & Power v. (McCarthy, William), IWCC, 29 ILWCLB 116 (Ill. App. Ct. 4th 2021), involved an employee that suffered right-shoulder injuries in accidents at work, with the second accident occurring nearly three years after the first one.[2] The employee filed two separate claims for each accident, with both cases being eventually consolidated, and at arbitration, the employee was awarded temporary total disability (or “TTD”) benefits, as well as a considerable sum of money for his medical expenses. Moreover, the employee was also awarded permanent total disability (or “PTD”) benefits based on the WCA’s odd-lot disability concept, which meant that the (now former) employee was deemed to be unlikely to find any kind of employment, based on his injuries, resulting physical disability and limitations, the medications that he was prescribed, and finally, the restrictions established by the employee’s treating physicians.[3] On review, the Commission reduced the employee’s TTD award, but in all other respects affirmed and adopted the arbitrator’s decision, and upon further review, the Illinois 4th District Appellate Court found that the Commission erred in reducing the employee’s TTD benefits, but otherwise affirmed the Commission’s decision, including that aspect of it that affirmed the arbitrator’s award of PTD benefits. However, the employer-appellant tried to prove or show that the employee was still employable on a limited basis, and that he was thus not totally disabled.[4] In support of this, the employer argued that it had offered a night-watchman position to the former employee, but the Appellate Court was unimpressed by this, especially since the alternate job offer was not made until after the employee was found to be completely disabled and unemployable. Overall, this belated offer was deemed to have been made in bad faith by the employer, and was not a serious attempt to reemploy the employee-claimant, as the offer’s timing was questionable, given that the employer knew for sure that the (former) employee was not employable at that point.[5] Thus, the making of the offer of another job was seen as merely an attempt by the employer to skirt or evade its responsibility (and liability) to the employee under the WCA, and the original award of PTD was allowed to stand.[6] This final decision of the appellate court must have been validating to the employee-claimant, and a relief to him as well, since he was disabled and could not work at all. The fact that the employer tried to be sneaky, and duck its liabilities to the employee, causes one to wonder if the employer could have been subject to some sort of sanctions, due to its bad-faith conduct.

[1]See Claimant establishes entitlement to PTD benefits under odd-lot category, Volume 29, Issue 11, August 13, 2021, page 5.

[2]See Id.

[3]See Id.

[4]See Id.

[5]See Id.

[6]See Id.

Attorney Matthew Ludwinski