Case name: Williamson v. Baptist Hospital of Cocke County, Inc., No. E2010-01282-SC-WCM (Tenn. 02/28/12).
Ruling: The Tennessee Supreme Court held that an assistant was limited to an award of one-and-a-half times the medical impairment rating because he was not denied a meaningful return to work.
What it means: In Tennessee, a worker's resignation from work based on an unreasonable or unsubstantiated fear does not qualify as a denial of a meaningful return to work.
Summary: A certified nursing assistant for a hospital suffered a rotator cuff tear while attempting to move a patient. He underwent surgery. His injury prevented him from continuing in his position, so the hospital offered him a position as a phlebotomist at an increased rate of pay. After two weeks of training, he resigned. He said he was unable to perform his job as a phlebotomist because it was stressful. He sought workers' compensation benefits. The Tennessee Supreme Court held that he was not denied a meaningful return to work and was limited to an award of one-and-a-half times the medical impairment rating.
The court said that in the phlebotomist position the hospital was able to accommodate the assistant's physical restrictions. He quit based on his apprehension that he would be unable to perform not because he experienced pain. The court said the assistant's doubts, fears, and anxiety were genuine but unfounded. Therefore, his resignation did not qualify as a denial of a meaningful return to work.
The court explained that the purpose of the law is to encourage employers to retain injured workers by continuing their employment at their preinjury rate of pay in exchange for limiting the amount of workers' compensation the worker can recover. Here, the hospital met its obligations by offering the assistant a meaningful return to work at a greater pay than his previous position and was prepared to accommodate the work restrictions caused by his injury.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
April 26, 2012
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