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Warn bosses: No negative comments on injuries

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in Employee Benefits Program,Employment Law,HR Management,Human Resources

Ohio’s workers’ compensation law makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who file workers’ compensation claims. Of course, that doesn’t mean employers can’t question those claims.

If that were so, employees would be able to falsely claim work injuries, and employers wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.

The problem:
There’s a fine line between legitimate concerns that an employee is abusing the system and punishing the employee who has a legitimate claim.

Here’s the best way to handle the problem. Instruct managers and supervisors to avoid getting involved. Leave it to HR to decide whether an employee is malingering, faking or lying about her injuries. Managers and supervisors should remain mum.

Recent case: For 18 years, Sylvia Myers was an exemplary employee who received excellent reviews. Then she developed carpal tunnel syndrome in her wrists and applied for workers’ compensation benefits and time off for surgery.

All went well after the first of two surgeries, and she returned to work after healing. She then had a second operation on the other wrist. This time, Myers’ supervisor told her he would send her to a doctor who would release her to return to work early. He then ordered her to take a flight to Chicago on very short notice for an exam. She said she couldn’t go, but offered to reschedule the appointment. Myers was fired for refusing to follow orders.

She sued, alleging retaliation.

The court said the supervisor’s hostility and sudden order was evidence of retaliation. (Myers v. United Airlines, No. 2:06-CV-650, SD OH, 2009)

Final note: If the supervisor really was concerned that Myers was somehow abusing her leave or faking the injury, he should have referred the matter to HR. It could then have investigated.

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