Commission pulls rule change providing workers’ compensation to front-line COVID-19 workers
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission has repealed its plan to allow essential employees, including nurses, first responders and paramedics, to receive workers’ compensation if they contract COVID-19.
The commission unanimously voted to pull the rule during its Monday morning meeting, which came several days after a circuit court judge temporarily suspended the rule.
Commission Chairman Michael Brennan said before the vote that a legal battle could have taken months or years to address, in addition to the uncertainty that pending litigation would have on businesses and workers.
“It’s a cost that we, quite frankly, cannot afford today,” Brennan said, adding the commission will continue to look at other actions it may take during the pandemic.
The judge’s ruling came after the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association filed a lawsuit Wednesday to block the rule from being implemented.
Under the plan, essential employees who apply for workers’ compensation as a result of contracting COVID-19 would have been “rebuttably presumed” to have contracted the virus through their employment.
Tim Drea, president of the Illinois chapter of the AFL-CIO, said during the meeting that pulling the rule would put employees at great personal risk as they work during the pandemic.
“Unfortunately, employers and insurance companies have used the courts to block the rule for workers’ compensation coverage, leaving workers with few options to protect themselves,” he said.
Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, said businesses are concerned about the safety and well-being of their employees. The legal challenge was to the process by which the rule was put in place, he said.
“We believe it was clearly an overreach and inconsistent with the traditional rulemaking process,” Denzler said. “If left unchecked, this rule would have subjected Illinois businesses to billions of dollars in increased costs at a time when many are struggling to make payroll and retain employees.”
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