Case name: Hartnett v. Papa John's Pizza, No. 31,455 (N.M. Ct. App. 05/29/13, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the New Mexico Court of Appeals held that an employer was not required to rehire a director.
What it means: In New Mexico, an employer can be ordered to rehire an injured worker if the worker ceased working due to the work injury.
Summary: A senior director of operations was in a motor vehicle accident while traveling from one of his employer's locations to a new employee training facility. He sustained some injuries but was able to return to work the next day. He continued working for the employer for two months until his termination. The employer terminated him for allegedly submitting false expense reports. Four months later, the director filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits for injuries sustained in the motor vehicle accident. A workers' compensation judge awarded him benefits and ordered the employer to rehire him. The New Mexico Court of Appeals held that the employer was not required to rehire him.
The court found that the director's termination was not the result of his injury. Despite the fact that the WCJ found that the director's termination was not for a good cause, the WCJ also concluded that the termination was not retaliatory for pursuing a workers' compensation claim. The court explained that it would be inconsistent with policy to require an employer to rehire a worker terminated for reasons unrelated to the work injury. The court also pointed out that the director's termination occurred before he filed a claim for benefits, and nothing indicated that the termination was related to the accident.
The court also found that the WCJ properly calculated the indemnity payments that the director owed the employer as a result of his settlement with a third party for the accident. The worker's argument that the employer should receive no indemnity payments sought to maintain two recoveries for the same injury.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
August 26, 2013
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