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Illinois Judge Issues Temporary Restraining Order regarding Illinois Workers’ Comp COVID-19 Rebuttable Presumption Emergency Rule

Coronavirus Labor & Employment

As reported in our prior alert, on April 13, 2020, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC) issued an emergency rule creating a rebuttable presumption that first responders and other essential workers identified in Governor Pritzker’s March 20 Stay at Home Order who develop COVID-19 contracted it in the workplace. On April 23, a Sangamon County, Illinois judge issued a restraining order temporarily blocking the implementation of the rules until the Court can fully consider the merits of the case. 

The rule, while applauded by many, drew sharp criticism from others as many questioned the Governor’s authority to adopt the rule.  The emergency rule has been widely opposed by employer groups, due to concerns that it will be difficult to prove that an employee contracted the virus outside of the workplace, resulting in increased liability for workers’ compensation claims.  In addition, the rule defines first responders to include not only traditional responders such as police, firefighters, and emergency technicians, but also employees in most categories of “Essential Business and Operations” under the Governor’s Stay at Home Order.

On April 22, 2020, the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association filed a lawsuit in Sangamon County challenging the validity of the rule. The groups allege the IWCC exceeded its authority under the Illinois Administrative Procedure Act, and also violated the Workers’ Compensation Act and Workers’ Occupational Disease Act. The groups also challenged whether enough time was allowed prior to implementation of the rules under the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

Business groups expect the Court to hear arguments on May 4. We will continue to monitor all developments in this case.