Phlebotomist fails to show loss of wages was caused by disability
Case name: Zamora v. New York Neurologic Associates, et al., No. 55 (N.Y. 05/01/12).
Ruling: The New York Court of Appeals held that a phlebotomist was not entitled to benefits because she failed to conduct a reasonable job search.
What it means: If a worker withdrew from work due to an accident at her workplace, the New York Workers' Compensation Board is not required to infer that her post-accident loss of wages was due to physical limitations caused by the accident.
Summary: A phlebotomist was injured when a computer monitor fell off a shelf and struck her upper back. She told her employer that she would not return to work because she did not feel well enough to perform her duties. She was employed on and off on a part-time basis and received workers' compensation benefits. Four years after her injury, she returned to full-duty work. She was classified as having a permanent partial disability but was denied benefits because she was working full time. Later, she quit due to migraines, numbness in her hand, and back pain. She said that she sought other work that was "less physically taxing" than a phlebotomist job. However, she applied for positions that required more lifting and standing than she could manage. The New York Court of Appeals held that the phlebotomist was not entitled to benefits after she quit her job.
The court said that the phlebotomist's original withdrawal from the workforce was not voluntary. The court explained that a worker's "work-related permanent partial disability allows an inference that a subsequent loss of wages is attributable to physical limitations." However, this inference is not required. The court said that if the inference was required the burden of proof would shift from the worker to the employer.
The court concluded that the phlebotomist did not make a reasonable search for work consistent with her physical restrictions. She sought work doing jobs that required more lifting and standing than she could manage. No evidence showed her attempt to find less physically taxing work.
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July 16, 2012
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