Technician's lack of fraudulent intent creates liability for business
Case name: Advanced Transmission Service, LLC v. Labor and Industry Review Commission, No. 2010AP1997 (Wis. Ct. App. 07/06/11).
Ruling: The Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that a business did not have reasonable cause for refusing to rehire an injured worker.
What it means: In Wisconsin, an employer's refusal to rehire a worker because of the worker's alleged fraudulent scheme can be overcome by the worker's lack of intent to propose a fraudulent scheme.
Summary: A technician for an automobile repair business injured his right elbow at work. His doctor placed him on light-duty status. The business initially accommodated the technician's restrictions, but it ran out of tasks for him to perform after one week. The technician left work, and he began receiving temporary total disability benefits. Later, his doctor released him to work without restrictions. His employment was terminated because the business did not have enough work.
The business owner said he would contact the technician in the future if a position became available. The worker suggested he come back to work and say that his arm hurt because he believed he needed to do so to reinstitute his benefits. When a position became available, the owner did not contact the technician, stating that he believed the technician wanted the business to engage in fraud. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that the business did not have reasonable cause in refusing to rehire the technician.
The court pointed out that the technician's elbow was still sore when he returned to full-duty work. He convinced his doctor to release him to return to work because he wanted to return to a higher income. The owner was aware of this. The technician also did not intend to do anything fraudulent and thought he needed to go back to work to reinstitute his existing workers' compensation claim. The court concluded that the owner's refusal to rehire him was not actually motivated by his alleged fraud.
The business also contended that it did not have a continuing obligation to rehire the technician because he did not present himself for rehire. The court refused to consider the argument because the business did not raise it before the labor and industry review commission.
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August 8, 2011
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