Illinois workers have rights under the law after suffering an injury on the job. When employers violate those rights, they can and should be held responsible. Last month, a man who was denied the ability to return to work at Dean Foods after a disabling injury prevailed in court. It was a long road, however.
The Wonder Lake man was first injured shortly after he went to work at the milk processing facility. He says that, despite a doctor’s note about his physical limitations, his supervisors required him to haul a nearly 500-pound load up an incline in 2009. That caused him to re-injure himself.
He underwent surgery for the injury in 2013. He says that he sought to return to work the following year but had some medical restrictions on the duties he could perform. However, his employer would not give him a job that allowed for those restrictions even though there were available light-duty jobs he was able to perform.
The company claimed that it had no obligation to accommodate his restrictions. He was eventually terminated. He sued the company for retaliation, discrimination and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Last month, the jury who heard the man’s case ordered Dean Foods to pay over $3 million. The law firm representing the plaintiff said in a statement, “The jury heard extensive evidence that Dean Foods’ management employees created inaccurate, staged photos and misleading documents to cover up their violations of the ADA and Illinois law.”
The firm noted that the jury “sent a powerful message to Dean Foods, and employers generally with a $3 million punitive damages award. Such awards are intended to punish and deter when evidence of willful and wanton or reckless misconduct is presented.”
People who can and want to return to work after suffering a workplace injury have the right to do so if their employer has jobs available that they can perform. If your employer has refused to accommodate your medical restrictions after you suffered a workplace injury, it’s wise to seek the guidance of an attorney who can help you protect your rights.