Cahokia library employee denied workers' compensation benefits, appellate court rules

By Gabriel Neves | Oct 11, 2018

MT. VERNON -- A Cahokia School District employee has lost an appeal disputing a decision denying her workers' compensation claim.

The Fifth District Appellate Court affirmed a lower court's decision upholding the denial of benefits to Rhonda Nichols by the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission.

Rhonda Nichols is wife of former Cahokia village trustee Jerry Nichols, who had served two terms as trustee, and had been at odds with mayor Curtis McCall, Jr. who took office in the spring of 2015. 

In late October 2015, McCall ordered police to remove trustee Nichols from a village board meeting.when questions were raised on McCall's spending for new workers. 

The employee claimed her lung problems were due to the dusty conditions of the library.  

Regarding Rhonda Nichols' claim, she filed a lawsuit in St. Clair County Circuit Court against the commission and the school district after they denied benefits relating to her respiratory ailments. 

She worked as a library aide and claimed her respiratory problems were related to the "dusty, dirty and moldy condition of the library," according to court documents. 

The court ruling indicated that according to Nichols' medical records, pulmonary abnormalities could not be found. 

After a renovation, school district officials demanded Nichols return to work. When Nichols presented a doctor's note advising to stay away from dust, the school district suspended her. She was later fired in November 2008. An arbitrator later determined the school did not make Nichols sick.

The appellate court panel agreed and denied her appeal. 

"The commission’s decision that the claimant failed to show sufficient credible evidence that her acute respiratory ailments were causally related to her workplace environment and thereby arose out of and in the course of her employment was not against the manifest weight of the evidence," Justice John Barberis wrote in the 11-page opinion.

Illinois Fifth District Appellate Court Case number 5-17-0454WC

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