Business group challenges emergency COVID-19 workers’ compensation rule in Illinois

(The Center Square) – A group of Illinois businesses filed a lawsuit Wednesday to challenge an emergency workers’ compensation rule change.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker asked the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission to pass emergency rule last week, which the commission did.

Pritzker said the rules were in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and would put the onus on employers of first responders and other “essential employees” if the employee contracts COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus that emerged in late 2019.

“[I]t will be rebuttably presumed that the individual’s exposure arises out of and in the course of and rebuttably presumed to be causally connected to their employment,” the rule states.

The rules cover first responders, front line health care providers and correction officers. The rules will also apply to essential employees in grocery and hardware stores, gas stations and others, but not media.

On Wednesday, a coalition of business groups filed a lawsuit in Sangamon County Circuit Court challenging the adoption of the rules. The group includes the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

“This case is about the Commission far exceeding its rulemaking authority,” the group said in a statement. “The substantive law of Illinois, and the wisdom of implementing it, is for the legislature, after proper discourse, and not the whim of the Commission.”

“At a time when many are waiting for relief from the federal and state government in an effort to make payroll and retain workers, they will now be forced to pay for additional medical and salary costs regardless of whether an employees’ illness was contracted outside of the workplace,” said group attorney Scott Cruz.

Pritzker had previously defended the move.

“What I can tell you is in the middle of an emergency the only way you have to operate is to protect people as best you can, their health and safety, and to the extent that it’s required that someone has to pick up the tab for that, that sometimes that will fall on the people most able to pick up the tab,” Pritzker said last week.

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