A Time Line 1906 1909 1910
Before Illinois enacted a After studying the A disastrous mine fire in The Employers' Liability
workers' compensation meatpacking industry in Cherry, Illinois killed 259 Commission surveyed 1,200
law, an injured employee Chicago, Sinclair Lewis men and boys, and provided employers, 1,700 labor
had to file a lawsuit in published The Jungle. the impetus for worker safety organizations, 200 judges and
court against his or her The book, dedicated to the and workers' compensation lawyers, and even Americans
employer. workers of America, was legislation. living in foreign countries.
intended to promote safer
It was difficult for an In a special session, the The group researched 5,000
employee to prove liability— legislature created a accidents. Of the 506 fatal
Although it showed
it was estimated that in 88% commission to study and accidents, they found that
of the cases the employer was recommend the best way to 40% of the families received
serious injuries, and
found not liable--but when a compensate for industrial nothing; seldom did a family
starving when their
worker did win, the benefits accidents. receive benefits in less than
injuries left them unable
were unlimited. three years; and for every
to work, readers
responded as consumers, dollar an employer paid for
The courts complained of
not fellow workers. The liability insurance, only 25¢
book led President reached the injured worker.
newspapers wrote of destitute
families, and charities told of Theodore Roosevelt to The group called for a
paupers created by advocate for landmark compensation measure to
uncompensated injuries. food safety laws, but not block common lawsuits and
for worker safety. ensure more prompt and fair
People began talking about
enacting workers' As Lewis later wrote, “ I compensation.
compensation laws similar to aimed at the public’s
those already established in heart, and by accident hit
Europe. it in the stomach.”
1912 1913 1915 1917
The first workers' The courts had declared the The new agency made a Lawsuits challenged the
compensation act in Illinois 1912 act invalid, so the number of purchases to set constitutionality of compulsory
took effect on May 1. It legislature replaced it with a itself up, including 1 copy of w.c. laws. After the U.S.
applied only to certain new one that was upheld by the act and 28 spittoons. Supreme Court upheld the law,
hazardous industries: mines, the Illinois Supreme Court. the Illinois legislature
Three arbitrators were on staff.
construction, electrical work, mandated coverage for extra-
Realizing the courts couldn't One traveled downstate.
etc. hazardous jobs.
handle the high volume of
The annual report stated that
Most employers and new cases, the legislature also The legislature also renamed
Chicago cases were resolved
employees could opt out of created an Industrial Board. the agency the Industrial
in 30 days and downstate
the act. The Board received 772 Commission, expanded it to
cases in 60 days, but assured
claims that first year. five members, and moved it to
In 1912, the average union the reader that cases will be
the Department of Labor.
baker in Chicago, working a Each case was decided by a concluded more promptly.
60-hour week, would earn three-member "committee on The Commission hired a
The Board received 900
$22, and a bricklayer, $44. arbitration." The employer, medical director, who
pieces of mail each day. One
But TTD was paid at 50% of worker, and the Board each evaluated workers and
clerk handled it all, and then
wages up to a chose a member. conducted a medical education
personally delivered all the
maximum of $12/week. campaign. The director was
Later, a report noted the outgoing mail addressed to
shortly called away to war.
The new law didn't get committee members "were the parties in the Loop.
much attention in the mere partisans of the persons A union report claimed that,
The Board asked employers
newspapers. What was the whom they represented," and before the law, compensation
and employees to reach
big story that spring? The recommended a single person for a fatal injury averaged
agreement on amendments
sinking of the Titanic. from the Industrial Board $349. In 1917, the survivors
suggested to the legislature.
make the decisions instead. were paid the statutory benefit
The agreed-bill process has
The term "arbitrator" stuck, of $3,500--10 times more.
continued, off and on, since
1918 1919 1920 1923
The annual report noted that Up until this time, there was A study found that only 55% Consider this: The court
the public did not realize the little awareness of the value of workers in 1920 were ruled that illegitimate children
extent of industrial dangers. of rehabilitation for injured covered by the Workers' have no legal status and may
It pointed out that injuries in workers, and it was limited to Compensation Act. not be considered the
World War I were running at vocational rehabilitation. dependents of an injured
Did you know the
25%, while injuries in the worker.
World War I may have Commission was also
steel industry at home were
prompted the legislature to responsible for mediating
order the Department of labor disputes? It handled 1929
"While it is not as well Public Welfare to assure 125 conflicts in 1920,
known, it is no less a fact rehabilitation services to including 75 strikes. In 1929, the six-day
that" domestic accidents every disabled Illinois workweek was still the norm.
Among the disputes were Over 99% of men and women
"have been occurring as resident, 16 years old or
strikes by Chicago meat worked more than
regularly, and in almost equal older, who was unable to
cutters, Kewanee machinists, 44 hours/week. A
numbers, among the working work.
Rock Island streetcar Department of Labor survey
classes of the United States"
The services included workers, and Rosiclare reported that the most
as among the soldiers of
surgery, prosthesis, and miners. common work schedule was
re-education, as well as 48 hours/week for men and
Later, responsibility for
Innovations in assistance in finding 50 hours/week for women.
mediating strikes was
"reconstructing" injured employment.
transferred to the Department
soldiers, it also noted, could
help injured workers.
1936 1957 1970 1972
The legislature passed the On July 5, the Commission Congress passed the The national commission
Health and Safety Act and separated from the Occupational Safety and issued its report, which listed
ordered the Commission to Department of Labor and Health Act (OSHA) and 19 recommendations as
develop rules to protect became a self-standing created a national commission essential features of an
workers' safety. A follow-up agency. to study the adequacy of w.c. adequate w.c. program. On
report said the Commission laws. average, states complied with
On July 11, the Occupational
had not devoted much energy only 7 of the 19
Diseases Act became At the time, benefits were
to this task, because of the recommendations.
mandatory. widely considered to be
press of compensation cases.
insufficient. In more than
One engineer constituted the Benefits were still designed to
whole safety department. replace only 50% of wages,
half of the states, the 1975
maximum TTD benefit was
Later, the job was transferred but limits kept the actual In response to the 1972
below the poverty level for a
to the Dept. of Labor. replacement rate much lower. report, the legislature passed
family of four.
While the average weekly several changes to the law.
wage in Illinois was $89, the Internally, the Commission
1949 maximum TTD benefit for a adopted a new method of
Benefits would now replace
66 2/3% of wages; cost-of-
The Workers' Compensation single person was $34/week, numbering cases. The living benefits were instituted
Lawyers Association was which represents a 38% wage method used the last two so that long-term benefits
formed in Chicago. replacement rate. digits of the calendar year in would keep pace with
which the case was filed, inflation; employees were
Welfare benefits were
letters indicating the act under allowed to choose their
1950 actually higher than workers’
which it was filed (WC or doctors; a new benefit
OD), and then a sequential category was created to
Two staff physicians
number address unscheduled injuries;
conducted impartial medical
(e.g., 70 WC 1). and it became illegal to fire an
exams at a fee not to exceed
$5 per exam. employee for filing a w.c.
1977 1982 1989 1996
Up until 1977, only Insurance companies were Business and labor groups The Commission issued the
commissioners approved authorized to set their own jointly supported a reform first-ever handbook in
settlement contracts. In 1977, premium rates for workers' measure that gave the Spanish.
this authority was extended to compensation insurance. Commission more funds,
arbitrators, who now approve more arbitrators, and a
98% of all contracts.
Beginning Jan. 1, cases
temporary panel of 1997
were randomly assigned to
commissioners to reduce the The Commission closed more
arbitrators immediately after
backlog of cases. To further
1978 cases were filed, thereby
expedite cases, the law also
cases than ever before and
ending the old method of reduced the pending caseload
In the few years since 1975 prohibited the introduction of for the first time in 12 years.
fishing disks out of a bowl.
when the law was expanded, evidence on the review level.
The Commission also
the number of new cases
increased by over 50%. 1984 1995
reinstituted its program to
make sure employers obtain
Backlogs started to grow.
The legislature created an w.c. insurance.
The Structural Work Act of
emergency hearing process
1907 (also known as the
1980 under Section 19(b-1) of the
Scaffold Act) was repealed.
Act. It also reduced PPD
In response to complaints This law had allowed injured
benefits to 60% of wages.
about the rising cost of construction workers to seek
workers' compensation, the recovery in court. Now,
legislature froze benefit workers' comp. is their only
levels. The freeze lasted until remedy.
1999 2002 2005 2006
After 80+ years, the This year marks the 90th The agency is renamed the The state’s first medical fee
Commission converted its anniversary of the Illinois Illinois Workers’ schedule took effect 2/1/06.
forms from legal size to letter Workers' Compensation Act. Compensation Commission.
The third panel of
size for greater convenience.
The Commission opened a After months of intense commissioners was installed,
The Commission launched its district office in Collinsville. negotiations between business and started hearing cases in
website, which has made and labor representatives, the September.
information widely available legislature authorized major
(www.iwcc.il.gov). The 2003 changes to the w.c. program.
website now receives Illinois became the 46th state Governor Blagojevich signed 2007
700,000 hits/month. in the country to pay for its HB2137 into law on July 20, Workers’ compensation
workers’ comp. agency 2005. insurance rates continue to
2001 through an independent
source of funds. When
The new law added a third run below inflation. In real
terms, the 2007 rate
panel of commissioners;
The legislature established a employers buy w.c. insurance, directed the Commission to represents a 34%
$10,000 minimum fine for they pay an assessment that create a w.c. medical fee DECREASE since 1990.
employers that knowingly fail funds the Commission. This schedule; established a
to obtain w.c. insurance, and assessment has allowed the utilization review provision
provided that corporate Commission to hire more and a balance billing
officers may be held arbitrators and reduce their prohibition; created a w.c.
personally liable for the fine. caseloads. fraud investigation unit as
The Commission started well as tougher penalties for
scheduling an arbitrator to be fraud; and increased some
on call each day in Chicago to benefits.
handle “Settlement Day” and
pro se settlement contracts.