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Illinois workers' compensation: Did flu spread to prison guards?

An Illinois state prison went on lockdown recently, but not for the usual reason. Instead of the lockdown occurring as a result of inmate violence, it happened because 58 prison guards called in sick on the same day at Stateville Correctional Center. This is an unusually high number of absences, but the workers are likely eligible for workers' compensation benefits if their absences are a result of a workplace illness.

The incident caused a major problem at the maximum-security prison, which had to restrict the inmates' movements from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. until the prison had enough staff to operate normally. A week prior to this incident, approximately 100 inmates at the prison were sickened by an outbreak of norovirus. The labor union that represents the prison guards had been concerned about the spread of illness at the facility.

A labor union official could not confirm that the guards were stricken by illness, but did discuss a potentially relevant event that occurred the day before. A crowd of correctional officers and retirees rallied in the state capital against proposed cuts to their retirement benefits. However, the guards at Stateville Correctional Center who attended either had approval to do so or were already off the day of the rally.

It remains to be seen if the numerous absences were the result of another outbreak of illness in the prison. If a workplace illness is confirmed, the prison guards may be able to file for Illinois workers' compensation to offset medical expenses and lost wages. Any worker suffering from an on-the-job illness or injury may find it helpful to examine the full range of benefits to which they are entitled.

Source: Quad-City Times, "Guard shortage causes prison lockdown," Kurt Erickson, Jan. 4, 2013

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