If Illinois Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion) has his way, Illinois employees and employers will need to take matters to Illinois’ already over-burdened circuit court system. Rep. Bradley is sponsoring HB1032, which in his own words will “abolish [Illinois’ workers’ compensation system] and send the cases back to the circuit court.” In his opinion, the system is so “broken beyond repair” that this seems to be the best reform measure – scrap it and bring it back some other day or keep it in the courts. Sound like a crazy idea? The bill passed out of the House Judiciary I-Civil Law Committee on April 6th and is on its way to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote possibly as early as Friday.
You will recall that since last fall we have been following the Illinois Chamber of Commerce’s and the Joint Employers’ request to reform the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and how it is administered in Illinois. This received much publicity when the Belleville News Democrat raised a light on millions of taxpayer dollars paid in settlements and awards of claims at the Menard Correctional Center and then did the same on some questionable conduct on the part of at least two IWCC arbitrators, who are now on paid administrative leave. There is now a federal investigation taking place of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission and the State’s workers’ compensation claims administration department. More recently, one of Illinois’ largest employers, Caterpillar, Inc., let Governor Quinn know that it is serious about workers’ compensation reform by telling everyone of a letter it received from another state soliciting Caterpillar to come to its much more business friendly location. (Caterpillar is not the only employer to receive one of these letters.) Not too suprisingly, this niche area of law in which we practice has now become a part of the part of daily news.
The Chamber’s and Joint Employers’ push for meaningful workers’ compensation reform continues in Springfield with renewed vigor through other pending bills. Perhaps Rep. Bradley is expressing the frustration of many of the legislators in Springfield with a proposal to scrap the whole system rather than take the time to understand the proposed changes and seek a middle ground to enact meaningful reform. Perhaps, instead, this bill is offered as a proposed solution to some of the current inequities in the system. While we and many others see this as a radical proposal, if not simply overkill, it has at least enough support to make it to the floor of the House of Representatives. Please stay tuned, and we will continue to keep you updated.