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Illinois employers can't require workers to provide notice prior to seeking medical treatment for workplace injuries, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division ruled last week.
Joenathan Stevenson started working as a package handler for FedEx Ground Package System Inc. in February 2007, court records show. Mr. Stevenson reported that his back was sore on Jan. 6, 2011, leading his supervisors to place him on “light duty” for a few days. He sought medical treatment on Jan. 13, according to records.
The physician assistant who examined Mr. Stevenson cleared him to return to work “on light duty/off truck work until he can have a functional capacity eval done with physical therapy to see exactly what his limitations are,” records show.
FedEx terminated Mr. Stevenson's employment on Jan. 17 upon learning he received treatment for his back, records show. FedEx cited a company policy that required workers to provide notice prior to seeking medical treatment for workplace injuries.
Claiming wrongful termination, Mr. Stevenson filed a retaliatory discharge action against FedEx in the Circuit Court of Cook County in Illinois in December 2012. Mr. Stevenson sought damages “in an amount in excess of $50,000 plus costs and for all other relief this court deems appropriate,” records show.
The next month FedEx removed the action to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, according to records.
FedEx agreed that the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act protects Mr. Stevenson's actions, including seeking medical care from his own provider and filing a workers compensation claim, records show. The company said Mr. Stevenson's employment was terminated because he failed to notify the company before seeking treatment.
FedEx states that workers have access to a 24-hour phone line and that “even an attempt to make a phone call would satisfy the policy,” according to records.
The District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division last week granted Mr. Stevenson's motion for judgment on the pleadings and denied FedEx's motion for summary judgment, as “imposing any prerequisite an employee must satisfy before seeking medical treatment 'interferes' with the employee's right to seek and obtain medical treatment and therefore runs afoul of (the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act).”
“Because Stevenson exercised his right to seek medical attention without employer interference, a right guaranteed by (the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act), and it is undisputed that FedEx terminated Stevenson's employment because of his exercise of that right, the Court concludes that Stevenson's claim for retaliatory discharge has been established as a matter of law,” according to the ruling
Under Illinois Law, the rulings states, “it is unlawful for an employer to terminate an employee in retaliation for exercising a right guaranteed by the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act. … This is an exception to the general rule in Illinois that employers may terminate at-will employees for any or no reason.”
(Reuters) — FedEx Corp. was indicted Thursday for shipping packages from illegal online pharmacies despite repeated warnings from U.S. drug enforcement officials, according to a court filing.