The protection provided by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act is not limited to those injured workers who were hurt in Illinois. The Act also states that if an employee’s job is based outside the State of Illinois, s/he may still be eligible for Illinois workers’ compensation benefits if the contract of hire was made in Illinois. The test for determining where a contract for hire is made is where the last act necessary for the formation of the contract occurs. A recent example of this is Campbell v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, 2015 IL (1st) 133234WC-U, an unpublished opinion out of the First District, where the Appellate Court found Illinois had jurisdiction over an injured worker’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits from an Indiana employer.
The employer in Campbell is based in Gary, Indiana. The employee, Mr. Campbell, had previously worked for the employer and wished to return to his previous job. He traveled to Indiana to meet with the employer’s operations manager. He was interviewed then told he would need to pass a background check, an over-the-road driving test, and a drug screening at the employer’s facility in Gary; if he successfully passed those, he would then have to complete tanker certification training in Summit, Illinois. The employee as well as the operations manager both testified that “the last thing” Mr. Campbell needed to do before being hired was pass the tanker certification. The employee underwent and passed the necessary tests and screening in Gary, then traveled to Illinois for the three-day tanker training program. While Mr. Campbell was still in Illinois, he was informed he had passed; he immediately called the employer’s dispatcher and advised that he had been certified. The dispatcher arranged for the employee to transport a load and that same day he traveled to the Gary terminal, picked up a truck, and departed on his first run.
The Commission found it did not have jurisdiction over the claim because, “with the exception of training regarding loading and unloading tankers the contract for hire was made in Indiana.” The Appellate Court reversed, finding that the Commission improperly focused on the fact that most of the events leading up to the injured worker’s hiring took place in Indiana. As the court held, the “only relevant fact” is whether “the last act necessary for the formation of the contract” between the injured worker and the employer occurred in Illinois. Campbell, 2015 IL App (1st) 133234WC-U, ¶31. The court then found “the last act necessary” for the formation of the injured worker’s employment contract was his successful completion of the tanker certification training and this took place in Illinois. As such, Illinois had jurisdiction.
This is an interesting case because it highlights the flaw in focusing on where most of the steps in the hiring process occurred and instead reiterates that the dispositive factor is where the last act necessary took place. The court also emphasized that the date an employee is hired is not necessarily the employee’s first day of work.