On June 5, 2014, Governor Quinn signed a bill amending the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act and limiting protection for third party safety consultants from workers' suits. The Workers' Compensation Act prevents employees who sustain personal injuries or death in the line of duty from suing their employers for damages—establishing the workers' compensation program as the exclusive remedy. Prior to the Amendment, Section 5 of the Act explicitly stated that there is no common law or statutory right to recover damages from the employer, the employer's insurer, broker or "service organization retained y the employer, his insurer or his broker to provide safety service, advice or recommendations to the employer." The Amendment, which became PA 098-0633, limits the scope of protection from civil lawsuits to service organizations that are "wholly owned by the employer, his insurer or his broker and that provides safety service, advice or recommendations." The result is that independent, third-party safety consultants retained by employers in Illinois can no longer claim that they are covered by the workers' compensation exclusivity provision. Those safety consultants are now potentially subject to suit by injured employees who may claim their injuries are the result of the advice the consultants provided to their employers.
Illinois employers and their safety consultants may want to review should consider reviewing their consulting agreements to determine how the agreements address these potential risks, if at all. Likewise, safety consultants should review their insurance coverage to make sure it is adequate.
A copy of PA 098-0633, which amends the Worker Compensation Act and is effective immediately, can be found at http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/fulltext.asp?Name=098-0633&GA=98.