In Illinois as in many other states, employees can be fired for virtually any reason or for no reason at all, as long as the reason is not discriminatory, or not in violation of union rules or a few other exceptions. If your supervisor or owner doesn’t like the way that you brush your hair or tie your shoe laces and you get fired, it’s generally just tough luck. That’s because except for a small percentage of upper management employees, everyone else is usually considered to be an “at will" employee. That means that you work “at the will" of the employer and can be let go at any time. So as long as the reason for your discharge is not discriminatory or for one of the other few exceptions, you will usually not win a lawsuit against your employer for a typical firing.
This worries injured workers. They are often concerned that if they pursue a workers compensation claim, their employer may get mad, fire them and they’ll be out of luck. However, the surprising reality is that the filing of a workers compensation claim will usually make your job MORE secure instead of less. Here’s why: Say that you work for a great company. You’re a valued worker, have worked there for many years, have a great relationship with your employer and your job is very important to the proper running of the company. Then you get sick or injured and can’t work. Because no one is doing your job, it begins to affect the company. They also know if they fire you now, you won’t likely be able to sue them because you’re an “at will" employee.
But maybe you’ve heard about something called “Retaliatory Discharge"? That’s a type of lawsuit that you can bring against an employer for firing you in retaliation for the filing of a workers compensation claim. That should make your employer scared to fire you because then they’ll get sued for that as well, right?
Well, yes and No. The answer likely depends upon whether you have really filed a claim or not. If you have not hired an attorney yet, it’s highly unlikely that you have filed a claim as that’s not something that insurance companies do for you – you or your lawyer does it. When you don’t have a claim on file, there’s no reason for your employer to fear a retaliatory discharge lawsuit. Because you don’t really have a workers compensation claim until you file one.
On the other hand, once a law firm has filed your claim, it is much more logical for the employer to think twice about firing you, because now you truly have a worker's compensation claim. So rather than putting your job in greater danger, the filing is much more likely to offer you safety and reduce the chances that you will be fired. So don’t worry.