Managers' statements could show tech was terminated due to comp claim
Case name: Stanfield v. U.S. Steel Corp., No. 12CA010213 (Ohio Ct. App. 06/10/13).
Ruling: The Ohio Court of Appeals reversed a grant of summary judgment to an employer on a technician's claim of retaliatory discharge.
What it means: In Ohio, a manager's statement that a worker could be terminated for filing a workers' compensation claim can support a claim of retaliatory discharge.
Summary: A utility technician was climbing steps to the platform of an oil tank when she slipped on a step. As she began to fall backwards, she grabbed the handrail with her right arm and felt a "popping" and burning in her arm. A plant doctor initially diagnosed her with a torn bicep. She provided workers' compensation paperwork to the employer. The technician had increased numbness and was diagnosed with a right intramuscular lipoma of the bicep. She attempted to move away from light-duty work, but she was unable to perform her regular duties. After surveillance revealed the technician climbing a ladder and cutting portable fans from the ceiling of horse stalls at a county fair, the employer determined that she misrepresented her medical condition, and she was terminated. She claimed a retaliatory discharge because she filed a workers' compensation claim. The Ohio Court of Appeals reversed a grant of summary judgment to the employer.
The court found that the trial court erred in concluding that the technician could not possibly succeed on her retaliatory discharge claim. The manager allegedly stated on "numerous occasions" that if a worker filed a workers' compensation claim, the worker would be fired. Although the surveillance footage of the technician showed she was active, the degree to which her activity was physically taxing was unclear. The court also noted that a manager allegedly referred to her as "a one-armed person that couldn't do the job." The court concluded that questions of material fact remained as to whether the technician was terminated because she filed a workers' compensation claim.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
August 19, 2013
Copyright 2013© LRP Publications