What’s New in 2016? A Look at 2 Recent IWCC Cases

In this post I&F veteran attorney Lauren Waninski reports on some interesting new cases making their way through the Illinois WC system:

  • When employment  extends to the home

Bolingbrook Police Dept. v. IWCC, 2015 Ill. App. 3d. 130896WC

In Bolingbrook Police Dept. v. IWCC, the Appellate Court confirmed the decision of the Commission.  At issue was whether the petitioner’s injuries were in the course of his employment for the respondent.  The petitioner, a police officer, was injured when lifting his work bag into the trunk of his personal vehicle at his home. The court reasoned that because the petitioner was provided with the option of keeping his work bag with him at his personal residence for safekeeping, the safekeeping of the work bag was a job-related undertaking and thus furthered the employer’s interests when the petitioner performed tasks before and after a shift.  As such, the court found the petitioner’s injuries occurred in the course of his employment for the respondent.

Possible Implications:

How far does this reasoning extend to injuries sustained outside the work place? Many employees carry bags filled with items they use for work. At what point will these items be considered ‘requisite’ to their employment? Gym shoes for gym teachers? Books for librarians? IPads for teachers? Is an injury sustained while working from home now considered to be in the course of employment because it furthers the employer’s interests?

Employers should be fully aware of the tasks their employees perform before and after their shifts and determine what, if any, of those tasks are requirements of the employment. Further, employers should consider how those tasks may be construed by the courts to be in furtherance of the employment.

  • When a dispute based on Notice isn’t enough to defeat a Penalties Petition

Oliver v. IWCC, 2015 Ill. App. 1st, 143836WC

In Oliver v. IWCC, the respondent denied benefits based on the petitioner’s failure to report his accident on the day of and coincidentally the last day of his employment. The petitioner reported his accident to his employer six days later. The court found that penalties pursuant to Sections 19(k) and attorneys’ fees pursuant to Section 16 (19(k) and 16 require more than an “unreasonable delay” in payment of benefits) were appropriate based on the respondent’s deliberate decision not to honor its statutory obligations to the petitioner based solely on the petitioner’s failure to report the accident on the day it occurred.

Possible implications:

Generally, the notice requirement states that the claimant must provide notice of a work-related injury within 45 days to the employer. Denying a claim based on notice alone may not be enough, even if notice is provided after the 45 day time period. The respondent should also consider other options for a basis of denial, specifically accident and medical causation, when denying benefits.

Thanks to attorney Lauren Waninski for bringing these cases to our attention.

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