Leggett v. AAA Cooper Transportation, No. COA11-168 (N.C. Ct. App. 07/19/11).
Ruling: The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that a driver was not entitled to disability compensation after he unjustifiably refused a company's offer of suitable employment.
What it means: In North Carolina, an employer can show a worker is not entitled to disability benefits if he unjustifiably refuses suitable employment.
Summary: A truck driver was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident while in the course and scope of his employment. He suffered severe burns and injuries to his back, right shoulder, and ribs. The transportation company terminated him for exceeding his 12-week medical leave allowance under the Family and Medical Leave Act. When his doctors released him to normal work duty, the company offered him a job as a dock worker/driver. The company's manager said the driver might be able to return to his previous position, but it was not guaranteed. The driver refused this employment. He unsuccessfully applied for other truck driver positions over the next six months. He secured a position with a hunting guide service. He later suffered pain and numbness and did not return to work. The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that the driver was not entitled to disability compensation from the time he rejected the company's job offer until he was unable to work again.
The court explained that in determining the suitability of a particular job, multiple factors are considered. Here, the wages for the dock worker/driver position were only slightly lower than his preinjury wage. The court said although the driver worked less hours per week in his preinjury position, he was paid by the mile. The dock worker/driver position offered him a "guaranteed salary." Also, there was a possibility that he could return to his truck driver position and prior seniority.
The court found that the driver unjustifiably refused the offer by throwing his keys at the company's manager and stating that he did not want to start at the bottom.
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August 25, 2011
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