This employee’s workers’ comp case raised eyebrows. Read what happened, and see if you agree with the court’s final ruling.
A worker in Alabama claimed he injured his back on the job 15 minutes before the end of his shift, the day before he began a week-long vacation.
The injury wasn’t reported until he was supposed to return to work — more than a week after the injury originally occurred.
One reason the man didn’t report the injury right away: He’d suffered from pulled muscles in his back before, and he thought that might have been the only problem.
He admitted that he knew the company’s policy that all injuries must be reported to a supervisor immediately. But when the pain increased and he saw a doctor while on vacation, he still held off telling his employer.
The man was diagnosed with a herniated disk and degenerative disk disease. He then applied for workers’ comp. But his company didn’t think he was injured at work and fought to keep him from receiving benefits.
Some of the facts that came up in court:
- The man’s medical records didn’t indicate that his injury was work-related.
- His wife said she informed his employer of the injury the day he was expected to return to work after his vacation. But the man’s supervisor said she failed to mention that her husband’s injury was work-related.
- The worker was legally deaf, and his wife and mother both said communication breakdowns with his doctor were the reason his medical records had no mention of the injury being work-related.
- The man’s doctor claimed that he wasn’t comfortable saying that the injury was work-related because of a lack of documentation of a workplace incident.
Both a trial court and an appeals court found the worker’s testimony, along with that of his wife and mother, to be credible. It said that it was likely that communication difficulties contributed to the fact that the injury was not documented as being work-related.
So the worker was granted workers’ comp benefits with one exception. Alabama law says if notice of a work-related injury isn’t given within five days of the injury, the employee isn’t entitled to medical benefits that accrued before the date notice was given.
So the visits to the doctor the man made during his vacation weren’t covered.
Cite: Keystone Foods v. Harris.
Do you think the court made the right decision? Share your opinions in the Comments Box below.