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Employers Say Emergency Rule Will Burden Industries

Screenshot of J.B. Pritzker via Blue Room Stream
Blue Room Stream
Blue Room Stream
Screenshot of J.B. Pritzker via Blue Room Stream

A group of Illinois employers say they are not happy with recent changes to the state’s workers compensation rules.

Mike Smith reports.

Under an emergency rule adopted by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, essential workers who fall ill with COVID-19 are automatically assumed to have contracted it at their workplace, even if they work from home. That means they may qualify for workers compensation.

Governor Pritzker said these rules would give essential workers a safety net by, “ensuring that their workers’ insurance covers them if they contract COVID-19 while they’re on the job.”

Groups representing Illinois employers, like the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, said the rule change will require employers to pay for medical expenses and salary benefits without proof that the illness was contracted at the workplace.

In a statement, those groups said the emergency rule will burden industries already waiting on federal and state help with extra costs.

“At a time when the state is discussing how to provide relief for employers trying to maintain jobs, this move runs contrary in every way,” the statement read.

They also said the Workers' Compensation Commission may have violated Illinois’s Open Meeting Act in approving the move, which requires public bodies to give public notice of meetings at least 48 hours in advance. Business advocates claimed the rule was added with less than 24 hours notice.

Governor Pritzker defended the emergency rule during a daily press briefing Monday.

“Look, my intention is to protect the workers of Illinois, the people who are most affected by this COVID-19,” the governor said.

“We are in a pandemic, in an emergency. This is what we need to do right now to protect people.”

Copyright 2020 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Mike Smith is the graduate Public Affairs Reporting intern for the spring 2020 legisltive session.