At first glance, the case sounded routine. A 26-year-old woman working as an administrative assistant was complaining of debilitating hand and wrist pain from working on a computer for eight hours a day. As anybody with professional experience in this area will tell you, carpal tunnel is a repetitive stress injury.
The fact that she had been working for only three years should have been a red flag, but the company-prescribed doctor said she should remain off work pending a nerve conduction study, the most common diagnostic exam to confirm the injury.
In the meantime, a once productive employee was put on the sidelines and given some narcotics to help with the pain. There was no transitional duty available -- she already had a desk job that entailed virtually no physically strenuous activity.
In investigating the claim, I was advised by the employee's supervisor that the young woman was a good worker, with no disciplinary problems. When I talked to her, she told me her hands and wrists began to get painful several months before she filed a claim, but she wanted to work through the pain. It was only after she couldn't take the pain anymore that she filed a claim.
What a gamer!
The results of the nerve conduction study came back -- and wouldn't you know it, they were negative.
The doctor conducted another physical examination and couldn't find the source of the pain. But she still claimed that she was unable to work because of the discomfort in both wrists and hands. The doctor prescribed more pain killers and told her to continue to rest at home rather than coming to work.
At this point, I had seen just about enough. She was a healthy young woman with just three years on the job, probably not enough time to cause any harm. There was no evidence of an injury: Time to move on this thing.
I assigned an independent investigator to the case. He randomly chose a Wednesday to stake out her apartment. At approximately noon, the employee was observed leaving her house, entering her car and driving across town to a gentlemen's club.
The investigator waited two hours, but the woman never emerged from the club.
Turns out she worked there!
Next time the investigator followed her inside, disguised as a construction worker on his lunch hour. To get surveillance, he rigged up a camera to his lunch pail and left it on the bar next to him.
Lo and behold, here she comes, dressed in a scarf and a sneeze.
Not only was she a stripper, she was a pole dancer! In one particularly intricate part of the performance, she grasped the pole with both hands and flipped over so her head was facing the floor and her legs were toward the ceiling.
At the same time, with amazing manual dexterity, she was able to undo the clasp on her bra.
Clearly, her complaints about bilateral hand and wrist pain did not seem to be bothering her on this occasion.
Of course the camera recorded it all.
Needless to say having video of her hanging upside down on a pole was enough to have the claim dismissed.
And oh yes, we went after her for repayment of those temporary disability payments.
She was ordered to pay restitution and was terminated from her desk job.
JARED SHELLY is the editor of this column and can be reached at email@example.com. This column is based on the experiences of a group of long-time claims adjusters. The situations they describe are real, but the names and key details are kept confidential.
April 5, 2013
Copyright 2013© LRP Publications