Case name: Wolf v. City of Baton Rouge, No. 2012 CA 0155 (La. Ct. App. 11/02/12).
Ruling: The Louisiana Court of Appeal held that a city inspector was entitled to eight weeks of supplemental earnings benefits.
What it means: In Louisiana, a worker's termination for violating an employer's policies will cut off her supplemental earnings benefits.
Summary: An inspector for a city was injured in a motor vehicle accident during the course and scope of her employment. She was treated for neck, back, shoulder, and knee pain. Her doctor released her to return to work in modified sedentary duty. The inspector reported for work without her steel-toed boots that were required for her job. Her supervisors sent her home to get the boots, but she did not return to work. The city regarded her actions as grounds for termination due to the abandonment of her job. The city suspended her without pay and discontinued her supplemental earnings benefits. Her doctor modified her work restrictions to office activities and no driving. Later, her restrictions were modified again to light sedentary duty and no driving when she took narcotic medications. The city terminated her.
The inspector claimed that the city wrongfully terminated her benefits. The Louisiana Court of Appeal held that the inspector was entitled to supplemental earnings benefits for the eight-week period when her work restrictions prevented her from driving.
The court explained that other than during the eight-week period, the inspector's job did not require her to work outside of her restrictions. Therefore, she was not entitled to refuse to return to work. The city showed that until the inspector's work restrictions were modified for that eight-week period, her job met her restrictions.
The court concluded that after the eight-week period, it was not the inspector's work injury that prevented her from working or earning 90 percent of her preinjury wages. Rather, it was her suspension and termination for violating a city policy that prevented her from working.
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February 11, 2013
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