6-12-2017; In Just 18 Days--Two Major Changes for IL WC, Claims and HR; Shirley Ryan Abilitylab Up and Rising and more

Synopsis: In Illinois WC, Math on Wage Loss Differential under Section 8(d-1) Has Forever Changed as the Cook County Minimum Wage “Ramp” Inexorably Rises.


Editor’s comment: You can’t ignore the ever-rising Cook County minimum wage ramp when calculating wage loss differential claims in Illinois WC. We assure our readers in claims, risk management, brokers and HR, the landscape has changed in dealing with these wacky and potentially explosive claims. I am also unsure what our Arbitrators and Commissioners should do in writing a decision for a worker who does or can find a ‘minimum wage’ job that is certain to go up on an annual basis for the rest of their career.


If you don’t understand how expensive the exposure in a high-rate IL WC wage loss differential claim can be, I assure you a 25 year old construction worker who is given max rate wage loss differential benefits today, could receive $2,350,813.92 by the time they reach the end of the benefit at age 67. I think that is a staggeringly high benefit. I am also sure the Claimant bar wants to make every IL WC claim into a wage loss claim to try to squeeze the highest possible settlement out of the insurance carrier or self-insured employer.


We can all be sure in eighteen days on July 1, 2017, the Cook County Minimum Wage will be $10 per hour. What I am calling a “ramp” continues in a year when our County’s Minimum Wage rises to $11 on July 1, 2018 and to $12 in July 2019. It hits $13 an hour in 2020, and subsequent and guaranteed annual increases will be at the rate of inflation, not to exceed 2.5 percent. I am not aware the annual increases will ever actually end—if you know the legislation better than I and that is wrong, please let me know.


The silly people who put the COLA increases into the Cook County minimum wage calculation, limited to 2.5% a year, are similar to the kooky simpletons that installed the 3% annual compounded increase in IL fake gov’t pensions that will cause those fake and defunded pensions to double every 22-23 years or so. If the minimum wage for this nutty County goes up at 2.5% a year (and the new law provides for such increases) it will double in 28 years! While that sounds like a long time, we can all assume this County’s minimum wage is now on an eternal ramp that won’t ever stop rising unless the law is changed.


Please note this math—if the Cook County minimum wage goes up at the 2.5% limit each year.


ü  Ten years from now in 2027, the minimum wage will be $16.64 per hour.

ü  In year 15 or 2032, the minimum wage will be $18.83 per hour.

ü  In year 20 or 2037, this County’s minimum wage will be $21.30 an hour.

ü  In year 25, the minimum wage will be a whopping $24.20 an hour!


You can’t make this stuff up folks—it is simple and currently unchangeable math.


How the WC Wage Diff Math Will Change


If Claimant was making $30 per hour and is now making minimum wage of $10 per hour, they would receive 2/3 of the difference or $533.33 a week as their supplemental benefit in the first year. The next year, the benefit would be based on the new minimum wage of $11 an hour and the math would provide $506.67 a week. The third year, the math would reduce the benefit to $480.


As the minimum wage would go up, the IL WC wage differential benefit would typically go down.


Will the Cook County Minimum Wage Ramp Change IL WC Wage Loss Claims Arising in Other Counties Across Illinois?


The short answer is no one can be sure but the closer Claimant lives to Cook County, the stronger the chance the employer could demonstrate the worker could get a much higher minimum wage “replacement” job than in Galesburg or Bloomington.


How Wage Loss Diff Claims Used to ‘Work’


Most of the “permanency” or impairment sections of the IL WC Act assume Petitioner has returned to work within their capabilities at a similar rate of pay. Section 8(d-1) allows a Petitioner, at his or her option, to elect to receive, in lieu of all other permanency benefits, 2/3 of the difference between what he would be earning in the job he was working when injured and the average of what he/she is able to earn in a new and alternative job.


This benefit was generally considered to continue until Petitioner would retire from the work force (the words of the statute are: “for the duration of his (her) disability”). For claims occurring on or after September 1, 2011, wage loss was capped or ended at the point the worker reaches age 67 or for at least five years. This amendment was considered a solid savings for Illinois employers.


Wage loss differential benefits are routinely confused with temporary partial disability benefits which are available in some states. Illinois has no provision for a Petitioner in a modified duty job who temporarily receives lower wages but expects to return to a higher paying job in the near future.


Once having opted for wage differential benefits, all other forms of permanent partial benefits should be waived based upon the statutory fiat in Section 8(d-1). Some petitioners’ attorneys claim this benefit should be paid as ‘maintenance’ but the new concept of temporary partial disability now applies.


Wage differential benefits were the first of the benefits somewhat amenable to present value calculation. The new math on a rising minimum wage ramp is going to make the present value calculation much more challenging. If any of our readers can figure out a reasonable way to re-calculate, as the Cook County minimum wage rises, please send it along.


The long and the short of the problem is no one expected the new minimum wage “ramp” that would insure moderate wage jobs for some workers would rise on an annual basis. We are all going to have to deal with the new math.


We appreciate your thoughts and comments. Please post them on our award-winning blog.

Synopsis: Changes to Cook County and the City of Chicago’s Earned and Paid Sick Leave Ordinance! Are You Compliant? Research and written by Lilia Picazo, J.D. 


Editor’s Comment: Things are also going to change for paid sick leave in 18 days on July 1, 2017 when Cook County and the City of Chicago’s earned sick leave ordinances will go into effect. A draft of the City’s ordinance was issued on May 22, 2017 and is open for public comment through June 16, 2017. Below are key components of the Cook County and the City of Chicago’s earned sick leave ordinances.


Who does the ordinance apply to?




According to Cook County and City of Chicago Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, any employee is eligible for earned sick leave if:


·         The employee works at least 80 hours within a 120-day period; and


·         The employee performs at least 2 hours of work in Cook County during any 2-week.




The City of Chicago requires that an employer maintain a “business facility” or be subject to the City’s business licensing requirements. Cook County requires only a “place of business” to fall under the umbrella of their Ordinance.


How do the ordinances work?


Accrual Period and Carryover Policy:


·         Employees begin to earn sick leave either on the first calendar day after the start of their employment or on July 1, 2017 (the effective date of the Ordinance), whichever is later.


·         Employees can use their earned sick leave no later than 180 days from the first calendar day after the start of their employment or July 1, 2017.


·         Employees will accrue one hour of earned sick leave for every 40 hours worked in Cook County. Employees can earn up to 40 hours of sick leave per year.


·         Covered employees who are exempt from overtime requirements are assumed to work 40 hours each workweek for purposes of the Ordinance. If the employee works less than 40 hours in a workweek, the 12-month accrual period will be based on the hours in the employee’s normal workweek.


·         Non-FMLA employees may carry over half of the unused earned hours or up to 20 hours in the following year.


·         Where an employer is subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act, employees eligible for FMLA are entitled to additional carryover benefits.


·         It is important to note there is no payout of accrued Earned Sick Leave at termination.


Using Earned Sick Leave:


·         An employee can use paid sick leave for their own illness or injury, or medical care;


·         An employee can use paid sick leave to care for a member of his or her family’s illness, injury or medical care;


·         An employee can use the leave if the employee or a family member of the employee is a victim of domestic violence, sexual violence or stalking; or


·         An employee can use the leave if the employee’s place of business, childcare facility or school is closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency.


Notice to Covered Employers:


·         An employer may require up to 7 days’ notice if the need for earned sick leave is reasonably foreseeable.


·         If the need for earned sick leave is not foreseeable, an employer may require an employee to give notice as soon as it is practicable via phone, e-mail or text message.


·         Notice is waived if the employee is unconscious or medically incapacitated.


·         If the leave is covered under FMLA, notice shall be in accordance with FMLA provisions.


·           If an employee is absent or uses earned sick leave for more than three consecutive workdays, an employer may require the employee provide certification the use for earned sick leave was authorized under the ordinances.


Notice to Employees:


·         Employers must post notice of an employees’ rights of earned sick time in a clear and visible place at each facility where a covered employee works that is located within the geographic boundaries of Cook County.


·         Employers must also provide employees at the commencement of employment written notice advising of the employees’ rights to earned sick time under the Ordinance. 


·         The Commission will make available a form notice of earned sick time rights that satisfies the requirements of the Ordinance.




Employers are prohibited from retaliating against or taking any adverse action against employees who in good faith exercise or attempt to exercise his or her rights under the ordinances. If an employer violates the ordinances, employees will have a civil cause of action against employers to recover damages equal to three times the amount of unpaid earned sick time denied as a result of the violation, plus interest and reasonable attorney’s fees.


As the effective date approaches, we encourage our Illinois and City of Chicago readers to carefully review and update their current policies to guarantee compliance with Cook County and the City of Chicago’s new policies. 


We note there is a growing list of municipalities who have opted out of Cook County’s Earned Sick Leave Ordinance and we expect this number will rise.   


This article was researched and written by Lilia Picazo, J.D. You can reach Lilia at any time for questions about workers’ compensation and other workplace matters at lpicazo@keefe-law.com.



Synopsis: The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago Is No More—Say Howdy to the Shirley Ryan Abilitylab!


Editor’s comment: About three months ago, RIC or the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago became known as the Shirley Ryan Abilitylab and opened the doors to its cutting-edge research hospital of the same name.

Science is now at a boiling point, with the convergence of disciplines and discovery — in computer capability, sensor technology, microbiology, pharmacology, material science, brain imaging and tissue engineering," said Joanne C. Smith, MD, president and CEO of the Shirley Ryan Abilitylab. "With the design of our new hospital, we're literally taking down walls to harness this moment and facilitate guided 'collisions.' With direct, ongoing exposure to a clinical environment, scientists will conduct research with greater intention, based on the needs of patients that they themselves observe. This model of translational research will change the way people work and the way patients get better, increasing the likelihood that promising research ideas will be converted into viable medical treatments.


Radically Shifting Paradigm


Headquartered at 355 E. Erie Street in Chicago, the $550 million, 1.2-million-square-foot Shirley Ryan Abilitylab is the first-ever "translational" research hospital in which clinicians, scientists, innovators and technologists work together in the same space, 24/7, surrounding patients, discovering new approaches and applying (or "translating") research real time.


"The Shirley Ryan Abilitylab is the only hospital in the world where doctors focused on solving patient challenges now work side-by-side with scientists focused on finding cures," said Jude Reyes, chairman of the Board of Directors for the Shirley Ryan Abilitylab. "The result is focused discovery and innovation on behalf of patients, who will be poised to achieve their best possible recoveries here."


The Shirley Ryan Abilitylab introduces its revolutionary model of care through five Innovation Centers focused on areas of biomedical science with extraordinary promise:


1.    Brain Innovation Center

2.    Spinal Cord Innovation Center

3.    Nerve, Muscle & Bone Innovation Center

4.    Pediatric Innovation Center

5.    Cancer Rehabilitation Innovation Center


Central to applying research during care are working labs in which interdisciplinary teams develop new research and insights to help patients gain more function, achieve better outcomes and enjoy greater ability and independence. Each lab has a unique configuration based on a targeted function and the type of experimentation taking place therein:


      Think + Speak Lab: Treatment for fundamental brain functions — arousal, lucidity, awareness, thinking, communication, perception, memory and learning.

      Legs + Walking Lab: Improvement of locomotion, gait and walking via trunk and pelvis stability; positioning and control of the hips, knees and ankles; as well as stepping and propulsion.

      Arms + Hands Lab: Improvement of hand function and movement, body and upper-limb coordination, strength, reaching, and hand/finger control.

      Strength + Endurance Lab: Improvement of stamina and resilience, complex motor and endurance activities, coordination, and higher-level activities of daily living (e.g., cooking, housekeeping, exercise, sports).

      Pediatric Lab: Treatment for all of the above, with a customized approach for the developing brains, bodies and conditions unique to children (infants to teens).


State-of-the-Art Space


As the largest freestanding rehabilitation hospital in the United States, the Shirley Ryan Abilitylab touts:


Ø  1.2 million square feet, of which 800,000 are dedicated to clinical/research

Ø  242 private patient rooms, with opportunity for future expansion

Ø  Comprehensive outpatient offerings with four times greater space

Ø  MRI and CT services in-house (avoiding external referrals)


New branding was reflected at the Erie Street flagship hospital in March 2017 and, shortly thereafter, at the Shirley Ryan Abilitylab's 40+ sites of care across Illinois and Indiana.


The Shirley Ryan Abilitylab has strong ties to the IL and U.S. WC Community—the venerable Arthur O. Kane was a lifetime trustee and donated the Arthur Kane Out-Patient Center to the institution.

About the Shirley Ryan Abilitylab


The Shirley Ryan Abilitylab, formerly the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), is the global leader in physical medicine and rehabilitation for adults and children with the most severe, complex conditions — from traumatic brain and spinal cord injury to stroke, amputation and cancer-related impairment. The Shirley Ryan Abilitylab expands and accelerates leadership in the field that began at RIC in 1953 — its care and research designated the "No. 1 Rehabilitation Hospital in America" by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1991. Upon opening in March 2017, the $550 million, 1.2-million-square-foot Shirley Ryan Abilitylab became the first-ever "translational" research hospital in which clinicians, scientists, innovators and technologists work together in the same space, surrounding patients, discovering new approaches and applying (or "translating") research real time. Applied research focuses particularly in the areas of neuroscience, bionic medicine, musculoskeletal medicine and technology transfer. This unique model enables patients to have 24/7 access to the brightest minds, the latest research and the best opportunity for recovery.


For more information, go to their website at http://www.sralab.org


Synopsis: Join Shawn R. Biery, J.D., MSSC for a nationally broadcast Webinar July 17th, 2017 3:00 PM to 4:15 PM ET

Editor’s comment:  Workers’ Compensation: Return to Work Issues & Strategies

Can't attend live? By registering, you will be able to view the course live, view a recording at any time for 12 months, or both. This webinar will provide an overview of strategies and tips for reintegrating injured workers to production. In addition, the course will also provide tools for effectively managing claimants’ expectations and implementing protocols for claim management.

Upon completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Analyze options which can be utilized on a claim by claim basis to set targets for return to work
  • Understand avenues to develop relationships with key stakeholders to assist in management of claim issues with focus on rapid return to work
  • Set targets for accommodated and full duty return to work for injured workers
  • Determine more specific strategies for your industry to minimize lost time claims
  • Describe HIPAA compliance issues

Receive a 35% discount for being a friend of the firm by using the promo code: SPKR35

You can sign up to attend at:


Please contact Shawn at sbiery@keefe-law.com with any questions or to find out how to have one of the KCBA attorneys provide a presentation to your office!


Workers’ Compensation in Illinois is complicated . . . Do you know everything you need to know about the Illinois WC system? Attorney Jim Egan of Keefe, Campbell, Biery & Associates will begin with a review of the basics of Workers’ Compensation in Illinois, including benefits, the Workers’ Compensation Commission, and handling a claim of injury from the beginning to end. He will then analyze and discuss in-depth important topics such as Temporary Total/Partial Disability, Nature and Extent of Injury, Wage Loss Differential, Discovery, Liens and related claims against WC benefits in Illinois, Surveillance, Retaliatory Discharge and How to Handle WC Death Claims.


The final section of the day will include a number of essential factors to be considered when you are dealing with any workers’ compensation claim. You will receive helpful information on pushing your claim targets, using real time examples. Keeping in touch with your workers and how to drive claim closure are key, so these will also be discussed.


This is a not to be missed workshop for anybody who handles Workers’ Compensation claims in Illinois.


Registration Information:

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

10:00 am - 4:00 pm

Holiday Inn Express, 1000 Plummer Drive, Edwardsville, IL 62025

Early Bird - (For everybody) - Sign up before June 10 - $249.00

Member (For members of the Illinois Chamber & local chamber partners) - $299.00

Retail Price - $349.00