Case name: Vazquez v. Sealy Mattress, 18 ILWCLB 204 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2010).
Ruling: The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission vacated an award of penalties against an employer because evidence indicated that the employer had a reasonable basis for disputing the work accident.
What it means: In Illinois, a supervisor's credible testimony that he never assigned a worker to the task in which he allegedly sustained his injury and medical records one week after the alleged accident that make no mention of the work injury provide a reasonable basis for the employer to dispute the accident.
A worker testified that while performing light-duty work, his supervisor asked him to pull carts loaded with fully assembled mattresses to a shipping area. The worker testified that the carts could weigh several hundred pounds and that it was heavy work. He said that while pulling a cart of the mattresses, he felt pain and a burning sensation in his right shoulder. When the pain did not subside, he reported the accident. The employer denied the claim. In awarding benefits, the arbitrator found the employer's actions unreasonable and vexatious and subject to penalties. However, the commission modified the penalty award, as the employer had a reasonable basis for disputing the accident. The commission relied on the testimony of the worker's supervisor, who said that he never assigned the worker the task of pulling a cart-load of mattresses. He further testified that he did not recall the worker injuring himself on that day. The commission also relied on the worker's medical records from office visits one week after the incident. The worker made no mention of a second injury during these visits.
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February 17, 2011
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