Case name: Davis v. UniHealth Post Acute Care, No. 5098 (S.C. Ct. App. 03/13/13).
Ruling: The South Carolina Court of Appeals held that a certified nursing assistant was entitled to temporary total disability benefits.
What it means: In South Carolina, an employer may terminate compensation if a claimant refuses employment that meets her medical restrictions. However, falling asleep on the job for a few minutes is not constructive refusal of employment.
Summary: A certified nursing assistant injured her lower back at work. The employer acknowledged that her injury was compensable and provided her medical treatment. The employer assigned her to light-duty work in the laundry room to accommodate her restrictions and paid temporary partial disability benefits. Workers in the laundry room took only one 15-minute break during the shift. One night, the CNA slept only one hour or two due to back pain and a stomach virus. Because of her pain, she took a muscle relaxer before her shift, which she did not normally do because it made her sleepy. At the end of her break, her supervisor saw her sitting in a chair with her eyes closed and heard her snore. The next day, she was terminated for sleeping on the job. The employer stopped paying benefits, asserting that she constructively refused light-duty employment by sleeping at work. The South Carolina Court of Appeals held that she was entitled to TTD benefits.
The court said that even if an employer could deny a worker temporary disability benefits for constructively refusing employment, the CNA did not constructively refuse employment. She had slept only one or two hours the previous night and took a muscle relaxer that made her feel sleepy. The evidence showed that she fell asleep due to a combination of exhaustion and medication, or she took a nap while on break. It did not show that her sleeping amounted to a refusal to work.
The court explained that the employer voluntarily agreed that the CNA was disabled and signed a consent order requiring it to pay disability compensation. After the employer terminated her employment, its agreement that she was disabled and refusal to provide alternative employment required it to pay her TTD benefits.
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June 17, 2013
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