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Panel rules in favor of injured child welfare worker

The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission upheld the decision of an arbitrator to award workers' compensation benefits to a child welfare specialist who suffered knee and spine injuries after a fall in her workplace's restroom. The commission's decision turned on undisputed evidence that the welfare worker's accident occurred "in the course of" her employment with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, a key element for a successful workers' compensation claim.

The unnamed plaintiff in this case was, at the time of her injury, handling phone calls at her office, speaking with callers reporting incidents of child abuse or neglect. While taking a short break, she used the restroom, where she heard a coworker calling her name. She thought that she was being summoned to an important phone call, so she quickly turned to head back to her desk. Unfortunately, she turned so quickly that she knocked over the garbage can. In a failed attempt to catch the garbage can and prevent a mess, she ended up falling herself, injuring her spine and knee in the process.

According to a case analysis, the incident could result in a slightly different view of how workers' compensation cases are handled. In Illinois, workers' comp benefits are awarded when the claimant can show that his or her injuries arose out of the employment. The state workers' compensation commission determined that the claimant's employment was a contributing factor in the fall that injured her; therefore, the injuries arose out of her employment.

It is the responsibility of an employee to fulfill the duties of their job and an employer must provide an environment in which their employees can safely succeed in accomplishing their work. In this case, the woman suffered multiple injuries, at no fault of her own, while she was trying to be a conscientious employee. By ruling in favor of the injured woman, the commission is affirming the employer's responsibility to provide a benefit for their employee's pain, suffering and expenses, incurred as a result of the an employee's efforts to carry out their job.

Source: Risk & Insurance, "Child welfare worker wins benefits for injuries in workplace restroom," Jan. 26, 2012

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