Injured Worker Allowed to Keep Receiving Benefits after Being Fired From Stealing
In a recent case decided by the Illinois Appellate Court of Walter Matuszczak v. IWCC (Walmart) found that the injured worker could continue to receive TTD Benefits even though he admitted to stealing cigarettes from Walmart while working light duty.
The Petitioner was injured at work and his treating physician gave him restrictions that allowed him to return to work. Walmart did accommodate those work restrictions and let the Petitioner return to work. While working for Walmart, the Petitioner stole cigarettes. The Petitioner not only admitted that he stole the cigarettes; he gave a written confession to the same stating that in addition to stealing the cigarettes, he knew that stealing was a crime and could result in his immediate termination. Walmart did in fact terminate the Petitioner for stealing the cigarettes. The worker’s compensation insurance company also terminated his TTD Benefits when he was fired from Walmart.
The Appellate Court found that the worker’s compensation insurance carrier should not have terminated his TTD (worker’s compensation) Benefits even though he was fired for stealing cigarettes.
The Appellate Court followed the seminal case of Interstate Scaffolding Inc. v. Illinois Worker’s Compensation Commission, 236 Ill.2d 132, 923 N.E.2d 266 (2010) where the Illinois Supreme Court found that an employer’s insurance company is obligated to pay TTD Benefits even when the injured worker has been discharged, whether or not the discharge was for cause. The Supreme Court found that the decision of whether or not the injured worker is entitled to TTD Benefits remains, as always, whether the Petitioner has reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI), and not whether the employee was fired for stealing from the employer.
The take away from the recent Illinois Appellate Court case and the Supreme Court case is that an injured employee, who has not reached MMI, should never quit his job before he reaches MMI (maximum medical improvement), unless he is willing to forego receiving worker’s compensation benefits while he recovers from his work related injury. If the Petitioner in both cases quit rather than was fired, the result would have been substantially different. If an injured employee quits while he is working restricted duty, the Court will find that he has abandoned his rights to receive worker’s compensation benefits because he voluntarily resigned.
If you have questions about your worker’s compensation case, please call an experienced Illinois McHenry County Worker’s Compensation Attorney, David N. Rechenberg at 847-854-7700.