Illinois Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Injured Carpenter in Workers’ Compensation Dispute

CHICAGO, Feb. 4 — The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that when a worker receiving Total Temporary Disability (TTD) benefits due to a work-related injury is terminated, regardless of “cause”, the employer must continue to pay benefits until the worker has been made whole or reaches maximum recovery.

The historic ruling–a win for Illinois workers who often face termination following a serious on-the-job injury–centered on Jeff Urban; a local 174 carpenter receiving TTD benefits following an on-the-job injury who had been working in a light duty capacity pending possible spinal fusion surgery.

Following an argument in which Urban contested an error on his paycheck, along with accusations that he had defaced a storeroom shelf with religious graffiti, Urban was fired and his employer, Interstate Scaffolding, refused further TTD benefits despite his ongoing medical needs.

A hotly contested case, it proceeded through the courts and was eventually accepted by the Illinois Supreme Court. Attorney Marc A. Perper of the Law Offices of Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates, Ltd., represented the injured employee before the Supreme Court. Perper argued–in video made available by the court–that the injured carpenter was entitled to receive TTD benefits after being fired because his medical condition had not stabilized.

In a unanimous 7-0 decision, the Supreme Court agreed with the position outlined by Perper and ruled as follows:

We hold that an employer’s obligation to pay TTD benefits to an injured employee does not cease because the employee had been discharged — whether or not the discharge was for “cause.” When an injured employee has been discharged by his employer, the determinative inquiry for deciding entitlement to TTD benefits remains, as always, whether the claimant’s condition has stabilized. If the injured employee is able to show that he continues to be temporarily totally disabled as a result of his work-related injury, the employee is entitled to TTD benefits.

The Illinois Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court and ordered the employer to pay TTD benefits to Mr. Urban.

“This decision is a great victory for the working men and women of Illinois,” said Perper. “It was fundamentally unfair that Mr. Urban was deprived of the lost-time benefits he should have received during his period of disability. We’re pleased that the Illinois Supreme Court has ordered the employer to pay the back benefits that Mr. Urban was entitled to receive all along. The decision reaffirms the obligation of every employer in this state to pay compensation to workers who have been injured on the job and have been returned to light duty. It puts employers on notice that they can’t escape their legal responsibilities by terminating their injured employees.”