Illinois legislators recently met with employer groups who have been trying to catch the ears of lawmakers for years in attempts to lessen their burden under the state’s workers’ compensation system. These employers argue that they only wish to change Illinois law to mirror the laws in neighboring states, and claim that the burden they face is too great for them to be competitive. Workers need to pay attention to these “conversations” even if these employers do not yet have the political might to effect the changes they are seeking. Discussions over weakening protections for employees, especially when they are the most vulnerable (i.e. while recovering from an injury), should be met with protest as these employers would seek to join a “race to the bottom” with regard to employee protections.
Illinois law versus Indiana
Some individuals argue that the workers’ compensation laws of “neighboring states” are more favorable to business growth and opportunity and therefore are better than the laws of Illinois. This argument is a red herring as it does not take into account the myriad other laws that affect employers and business growth in the state. For example, arguing that workers’ compensation is more expensive in Illinois, and therefore mandates a law change, does not take into account the basic calculation that drives workers’ compensation benefits the average weekly wage. Employees in Illinois are lucky to have employers who value their work, and pay them a fair wage to do it. Employees in neighboring states such as Indiana are not so lucky, and are paid almost 30% less than Illinois workers. When calculating an individual’s average weekly wage in Illinois, of course the amount will be slightly higher than that same worker in Indiana. However, that is only due to the fact that Illinois businesses and lawmakers have decided to value employees more than their neighbor to the east.
“Costs” of doing business
What many detractors of the current workers’ compensation system in Illinois also fail to articulate is that business is booming in Illinois. According to the most recent revenue numbers, Illinois’ unemployment rate is steadily decreasing and the state’s sales and use tax numbers are seeing a remarkably steady increase. What this means is that more people are working and spending their hard earned money in the state. How this can be bad for business is difficult to understand. Further, taking aim at the workers’ compensation system in Illinois is flawed, as there are numerous other regulations in the state that have a much larger effect on corporate profits. In fact, according to a CNBC ranking, the state is currently suffering from “a battered balance sheet and burdensome regulations.” Merely because an employer is suffering along with the state does not mean that it should attack its employees’ hard earned benefits.
Many people may not realize that the workers’ compensation systems around the country were created in order to assist injured workers in getting back to work as quickly as possible. Cutting the available benefits to these workers will only serve to delay their recovery and therefore, delay their ability to return to work. If you have been injured at work and need help getting back on the road to recovery, call the experienced attorneys at the office of Robert T. Edens, P.C today. We can explain Illinois workers’ compensation laws and help you obtain the benefits you need to get back on your feet.