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The Illinois General Assembly Takes a Fast and Hard Aim at the WC and OD Acts

It was not front and center on Governor Pritzker’s platform that he would be looking to push changes to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission personnel or procedures or pushing for changes to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act or Occupational Disease Act, but there were and continue to be quiet discussions at the IWCC and in Springfield about changes to happen. To date, the Arbitrators that were recommended for reappointment in September 2018 have yet to be confirmed by the Senate, and with a new governor in place, the strong opinion is that they won’t.  Instead, it is anticipated that we will see an entire restructuring of the current system of how and when arbitrators are up for review and reappointment and a change of arbitrators at the IWCC.  Keep watching for our updates.

In the meantime, we share this legislative update from our Illinois Chamber of Commerce Employment Law Council:

Tuesday afternoon the Illinois Senate passed SB 1596  (Sen. Sims-D-Chicago/Rep. Hoffman-D-Collinsville)which allows certain injury claims to bypass the workers’ compensation/occupational diseases system and go to circuit court. SB 1596 amends the Worker’s Compensation Act and the Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act to provide that specified Sections under the Acts limiting recovery do not apply to injuries or death resulting from an occupational disease as to which the recovery of compensation benefits under the Act would be precluded due to the operation of any period of repose or repose provision. Provides that, as to any such injury occupational disease, the employee, the employee’s heirs, and any person having the standing under law to bring a civil action at law has the nonwaivable right to bring such an action against any employer or employers.

The measure passed the Senate on a 41-16-1 vote. All Senate Democrats, except Sen. Landek (Bridgeview) who voted “present”, supported the Illinois Trial Lawyer Association, fast-tracked measure. Republicans Sen. Anderson (Rock Island) and Sen. Schimpf (Waterloo) voted “yes”.

To See how your Senator voted go to: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/votehistory/101/senate/10100SB1596_03062019_002000T.pdf

The measure has already had a first reading in the House and we expect as quick a consideration in the House next week.

This is a first step in further reducing the protection provided to employers under the “exclusive remedy” doctrine that was the trade-off to employers when the Act was first created.  We do not expect it to be the last.  We will continue to monitor this and several other bills pending in Springfield that will impact employers’ workers’ compensation and occupational diseases costs.

Thanks to Partner G. Steven Murdock  for this important Illinois update. Steve works out of the Chicago and St. Louis offices of Inman and Fitzgibbons and chairs the Firm’s Legislative Watch Committee.

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