CNA's job abandonment doesn't block permanent partial disability benefits
Case name: Chambers v. Wesley Medical Center, No. 107,350 (Kan. Ct. App. 12/21/12, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the Kansas Court of Appeals held that a certified nurse's assistant was entitled to permanent partial disability benefits.
What it means: In Kansas, an injured worker is not required to make a good-faith effort to seek postinjury employment to mitigate an employer's liability for benefits.
A certified nurse's assistant was helping a nurse move a patient when the patient fell on top of her. She injured her back and right shoulder. After the accident, she worked in an accommodated light-duty position for comparable wages. One year after the incident, the CNA stopped going to work. The employer terminated her for job abandonment. She remained unemployed and without any income. She sought workers' compensation benefits. The Kansas Court of Appeals held that she was entitled to PPD benefits.
The employer argued that the CNA was not entitled to benefits in excess of her functional impairment because her wage loss was entirely attributable to her voluntary decision to quit her accommodated employment with comparable wages for reasons unrelated to her injury. The court agreed with the CNA's response that she was not required to make a good-faith effort to retain or seek accommodated employment in order to obtain PPD benefits. The court explained that the reason for a worker's postinjury wage loss is irrelevant.
The employer asserted that because she worked in an accommodated position after her accident her wage loss would be zero regardless of future employment lapses. The court disagreed, stating that an injured worker is not prohibited from receiving disability compensation in excess of functional impairment if at any time after the injury she engaged in work for comparable wages. Compensation is only limited for the periods of time the worker is actually working.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
April 8, 2013
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