Phlebotomist's claim toppled by lack of temporary total disability finding
Case name: Polk v. Professional Clinical Laboratories, Inc., No. CIV-11-677-D (W.D. Okla. 08/16/12).
Ruling: The U.S. District Court, Western District of Oklahoma granted summary judgment to the employer on a phlebotomist's claim of retaliation for his workers' compensation claim.
What it means: In Oklahoma, a worker who never received temporary total disability benefits cannot prevail on a claim that he was subjected to retaliation when he was terminated during a period of temporary total disability.
Summary: A phlebotomist allegedly injured his back while lifting his medical supply box into his vehicle. At the time of the injury, he had degenerative disk disease and a preexisting back problem for which he received treatment and medications for pain management. He sought workers' compensation benefits. He never received temporary total disability benefits, and his claim was ultimately settled without any judicial determination. The phlebotomist could not lift more than 10 pounds, but his job required him to lift a cart weighing 40 pounds. He conceded that he could not return to work as a phlebotomist but argued that he could have returned to a light-duty position. The employer informed him that it had no available positions.
The employer terminated him when he exhausted his paid time off. He sued the employer alleging a violation of a workers' compensation law prohibiting retaliation. The U.S. District Court, Western District of Oklahoma granted summary judgment to the employer.
The phlebotomist asserted his claim under a workers' compensation statute that prohibits discrimination during a period of TTD. The employer noted that the phlebotomist did not show that he suffered a work-related injury that occurred in the course of his employment and arose out of his employment. The court found that he did not point to sufficient facts that connected his termination to his workers' compensation claim and suggested a retaliatory motive.
The court also found that the phlebotomist's claim failed because he never received TTD benefits and no determination was made in a workers' compensation proceeding whether he was qualified for TTD status.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
November 26, 2012
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