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Woman eligible for benefits although injury reported after 21-day notice requirement - PA

Under Pennsylvania law, employees are required to tell employers of their injury within 21 days of the injury or the claim may be denied. In this case, a woman experienced swelling and pain in her hands at work and sought medical treatment, telling her doctor and employer that she did not believe the pain was from her job duties. More than a year later when the pain had not abated, the employer sought treatment from a specialist who found the condition to be work-related and she filed a Workers' Compensation claim.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court found in favor of the employee citing that the woman had informed the employer about her condition, filed the claim as soon as she found out the condition was work-related and the humanitarian purpose of Workers' Comp, that a meritorious claim should not be rejected for technical reasons.

Company policy trumps Workers' Comp law in injury reporting - TN

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in a recent opinion affirmed an employee's termination because of her failure to report an injury in a timely manner consistent with company policy. After being transferred to an assembler position and experiencing pain in her palms, upper arms and fingers for 2-1/2 months, the employee reported the problem to a company nurse, explaining she was trying to work through the pain.

In affirming the dismissal of the employee's claim, the Sixth Circuit noted, the statute does not expressly prohibit or establish a public policy prohibiting an employer from imposing a separate notice requirement for workplace injuries. Importantly, the court noted the company had not disputed the employee's Workers' Compensation claim filed after her termination and had paid for the employee's surgery to correct her carpel tunnel. Thus, it was clear the company was not retaliating against the employee for reporting her injury, but rather enforcing its own safety policy.

False documentation bars employee from recovery - CA

In the California case of Salas v. Sierra Chemical, the court denied an ADA and Workers' Comp retaliation claim when the employer discovered, after the fact, that the the employee had used a counterfeit Social Security card with another person's number. In making its ruling, the court noted that Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), requires that employers refrain from knowingly hiring or continuing to employ unauthorized aliens.

However, the IRCA also "prohibits aliens from using or attempting to use "any forged, counterfeit, altered, or falsely made document" or "any document lawfully issued to or with respect to a person other than the possessor for purposes of obtaining employment in the United States."

California's 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled the "after-acquired-evidence" doctrine (where, after an allegedly discriminatory termination or refusal to hire, the employer discovers employee or applicant wrongdoing that would have resulted in the challenged termination or refusal to hire regardless of any discrimination) provides a complete defense to the employee's claims the employer discriminated against him due to an on-the-job injury, refused to accommodate his disability, and denied him employment as punishment for filing a claim for Workers' Compensation benefits. The appeals court also found the doctrine of unclean hands barred Mr. Salas' claim because he exposed Sierra to penalties for submitting false statements required by several federal agencies to establish a worker's legal work status.

Worker on cell phone awarded Workers' Comp - VA

A hospice nurse who glanced at her personal cell phone to see if it was her employer calling is entitled to Workers' Compensation benefits for injuries suffered in a car crash the Court of Appeals of Virginia ruled in Wythe County Community Hospital and Travelers Indemnity Co. of America vs. Donna Turpin.

Although the court noted that the possibility a call may originate from an employer, this does not mean that a resulting injury arises out of and in the course of employment. However, it found that the specific facts in this case indicate that the injury arose from her employment. The nurse's response to the call stemmed from the distinct requirements of her job, specifically monitoring her cell phone for employer communications. Therefore, there was a "causal connection between the claimant's injury and the conditions under which the employer required the work to be performed," the court ruled.

While the unpublished opinion is not designated by the court to set legal precedent or be of significance to the legal system, it could contribute to debates in cases involving doctors, reporters, food-delivery drivers and others whose work is tied to urgent cellphone communications.

Employer cannot require second medical evaluation - TN

In Sterling Edward Hubbard vs. Sherman-Dixie Concrete Industries Inc., heard by a Tennessee Supreme Court Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel, an employee who was injured in 2006 filed for permanent and total disability in 2009. Before the trial, the employer requested that he undergo two independent medical evaluations. He submitted to one, but declined the second. The court ruled the claimant had already seen several doctors whose medical records were available to the employer and that another exam was unlikely to reveal new information. The employer was held responsible for the cost of appeal.

Decision highlights consequences of misclassifying employees as independent contractors - MA

In Awuah v. Coverall North America, Inc, the MA Supreme Judicial Court ruled that employers may not shift the costs of Workers' Compensation insurance or other work-related insurance coverage to employees by deducting the insurance payments from a worker's wages. The plaintiffs in the case had entered into contracts called janitorial franchise agreements with Coverall North America, which provided commercial janitorial services to third-party customers. The contracts required the plaintiffs - as franchisees - to maintain general liability and Workers' Compensation insurance themselves or to opt into the employer's accident program and pay the employer the premiums for it.

The plaintiffs filed a class action in federal district court, alleging that the employer misclassified them as franchisees. The federal court agreed that they were misclassified and ruled that they were employees. It then certified questions to the Supreme Judicial Court including whether, under Massachusetts law, an employer may deduct the cost of insurance payments from employees' wages.

The decision points out to the extent that the misclassified employees were required to pay for costs typically paid for by the employer, those costs can be recovered and subject to mandatory treble damages.

Exclusive remedy challenged - NE

The case of Estate of Joseph Teague v. Crossroads Cooperative Association is one to watch as the Nebraska Supreme Court is asked to create an exception to the exclusivity rule when employers engage in intentional actions. The case involved a grain entrapment accident that resulted in the death of an 18-year-old worker. OSHA had cited the employer for willful and serious violations prior to the accident.