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Employee filed for workers’ comp? Careful with layoff

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in Employment Law,HR Management,Human Resources

The Michigan Workers Disability Compensation Act (WDCA) makes it illegal to discharge or discriminate against an employee for filing a workers’ comp claim or asserting the right to medical treatment after an on-the-job injury.

If your organization plans to lay off employees, make sure you don’t target anyone for a furlough—even temporarily—because of a workers’ comp claim or prior injury. That’s why it’s a good idea for someone in HR to audit the layoff list for any apparent retaliation.

Recent case: Patrick Malloy worked as a plasterer for DSI Acoustical and hurt his right arm at work. His boss suggested he not report the injury and instead use his regular health insurance for treatment. But Malloy refused, and 10 days later the company owner told him to go to the designated workers’ comp medical provider.

Malloy was off work for a few weeks before returning to the job. Several days later, the job on which he had been working ended. Malloy then waited for a call to another job site, which never came. His supervisor then told him he had been laid off.

Malloy sued, alleging retaliation for asserting his rights under the WDCA. But the company was ready with proof that Malloy wasn’t the only one laid off during the slowdown. Five other employees also weren’t called back. The court dismissed the case. (Malloy v. DSI Acoustical Company, No. 277495, Court of Appeals of Michigan, 2008)

Final note:
In this case, the company owner finally insisted Malloy see the comp carrier medical staff. Although the case doesn’t indicate what happened to Malloy’s boss, he was clearly in the wrong. Managers or supervisors who tell employees not to report injuries deserve to be disciplined. The risks of skirting the workers’ comp rules are too high to tolerate. 

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