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Business groups sue comp commission for COVID expansion

Posted On: Apr. 23, 2020 12:08 PM CST


Two Illinois business associations have filed a lawsuit challenging the statutory authority of the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission to issue an order that significantly expanded workers compensation coverage for employees who acquire COVID-19.

The lawsuit, filed by the Illinois Manufacturers Association and Illinois Retail Merchants Association in the 7th Judicial Circuit Court of Illinois in Sangamon County, alleges that commission chairman Michael Brennan and the commission itself exceeded their statutory authority by enacting substantive changes through a rule change, rather than through the legislative process.

On April 13, the commission issued an emergency amendment creating a rebuttable presumption for front-line workers who contract COVID-19 and expanded the list of workers covered by that presumption to include workers in nearly every industry still operating under current stay-at-home orders.

The amendment states that when a worker covered by this emergency order is incapacitated by COVID-19 during the current state of emergency, it is presumed that the exposure arose out of and in the course of the worker’s employment and is causally connected to the hazards of the worker’s employment unless proved otherwise.

The lawsuit seeks to block the implementation of emergency rules that would create an automatic presumption that the workplace was the cause of COVID-19 cases.

Insurance industry experts suggest that such an expansion could have a significant negative impact on the workers compensation industry.

The associations argue in their complaint that the emergency rule could add billions of dollars in costs on Illinois employers, and that such a substantive change in the law is required to be enacted by the General Assembly, not through administrative rules.

More insurance and workers compensation news on the coronavirus crisis here