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Warn bosses: Don’t speculate on injury costs

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

We all know that employers’ workers’ compensation insurance premiums go up when someone gets hurt at work and starts collecting workers’ comp. But that’s no reason to treat a worker who is returning from an injury any differently than you treat others.

Recent case: Rafael DeJesus worked for Contour Landscaping as a supervisor, directing snow-removal and lawn-care crews, depending on the season.

Then he was injured on the job and began to collect workers’ compensation. After about a year, the company wanted to create a new job that separated managing snow removal from lawn care. It hired another employee for the job without telling DeJesus, who was still on leave.

When he finally was ready to return with a 20-pound weight-lifting restriction, Contour told him there were no permanent light-duty positions available. Instead, he was assigned to nonmanagerial tasks.

DeJesus later claimed he was informed that he had to be “100% healed.” Otherwise, he would represent a risk to the company if he injured himself again, because the insurance premium would rise. (DeJesus was the only Contour employee who had ever filed a workers’ compensation claim.)

DeJesus sued, alleging retaliation for having filed a claim.

The court said his case should go to trial, based in large part on the company’s expressed concern that DeJesus’ injury might cost it more money in the future. (DeJesus v. Countour Landscaping, No. 09-CV-5005, ND IL, 2011)

Final note: Prevention is the best approach to controlling workers’ compensation insurance costs. Call your carrier or broker for help in setting up a safety program that could save you money.

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