Employer Must Still Pay Workers' Comp for Terminated Employee

January 25, 2010 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – The Illinois Supreme Court has reinstated workers' compensation benefits for an employee terminated for misconduct not related to his injury.

The court said it is a “well-settled principle” that when an employee seeks temporary total disability (TTD) benefits, the deciding factor in granting the benefits is whether there is a temporary total incapacity, and continuance of the benefits is based on whether the injured employees condition has improved. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, in a review following Jeff Urban’s termination, determined that his condition had not stabilized and he was still eligible for benefits, according to the ruling.

Urban was employed by Interstate Scaffolding, Inc. as a union carpenter when, in 2003, he sustained work-related injuries to his head, neck, and back. Between July 2, 2003, and May 25, 2005, due to medical conditions related to his injuries, at times Urban’s doctor required him to remain off work, and at other times, he was able to work “light duty” with restrictions ordered by his doctor.

Urban received TTD workers’ compensation benefits when he could not work and, when working light duty, he received a workers’ compensation maintenance benefit to make up the difference in income between his previous carpenter’s pay and his light-duty pay.

One day while he was working in a light duty assignment, Urban got into a heated argument with an employee who became so upset she phoned the company president, telling him about Urban writing religious “graffiti” with a permanent marker on storage room shelves. Urban was dismissed for defacement of Interstate property, and Interstate stopped paying his disability benefits.

Urban filed an application for adjustment of claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission. An arbitrator, for reasons not given, determined Urban was not entitled to benefits. However, the Workers’ Compensation Commission reversed that decision.

Interstate sought administrative review of the Commission’s decision in a county circuit court, and the court agreed with the Commission. However, on appeal, an appellate court sided with Interstate.

The state’s high court reversed the appellate court’s decision and reinstated Urban’s benefits.

More information on Interstate Scaffolding Inc. vs. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission is here.