Workers' compensation as we know it today—the insurance system that provides medical care and other benefits for workers who become sick or injured in the course of doing their jobs--grew out of the European labor movement in the late 19th century. It was one of the progressive reforms introduced by Germany’s Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in an attempt to diminish the appeal of the then-popular socialist parties.
The U.S. proved more resistant to the idea, and early attempts to establish workers' compensation by the states faced challenges in the courts. At the time, workplace injuries in the U.S. were considered to be under tort law, and cases had to be tried in the court system, a time-consuming and costly procedure. Believe it or not, even some early American labor unions were resistant to the idea of state-administered workers' compensation, because they felt it would decrease their role as providers of worker benefits.
In Illinois, the turning point was the 1909 Cherry Mine Disaster, a coal-mine fire in which 259 men—many of them just boys, some as young as 11 years old—died. Outrage over the fire helped lead to the 1911 passage of the law that would develop into the Illinois Workmens' Compensation Act (workmens was subsequently changed to workers).
Like other business entities, homeowners associations pay for workers’ compensation. It applies to all workers whether they are secretaries, management, maintenance people, doormen, supers or bookkeepers, and it affords quite complete coverage. Mark McLallen, president of Condominium Insurance Specialists of America in Elgin explains: “Most expenses incurred from an injury and while recuperating from an injury are covered by workers' comp, including emergency room visits, surgeries, follow-up exams, medication, physical therapy and travel. Loss of wages are typically addressed by taking a percentage (usually two-thirds) and applying it to the number of absent days until the employee is back performing original duties.”
In addition to physical injuries, diseases are also covered, as are some psychological conditions. According to Tyler Berberich, a workers' compensation attorney with Horwitz Horwitz & Associates in Chicago, “Any kind of work-related disease that emanates from an occupational hazard—chemicals, that kind of thing—would be covered under the Workers' Compensation and the Occupational Disease Act.”