Judy works in the shipping department of a Georgia Pecan farm and factory. During the holiday season, the small shipping department was overwhelmingly busy and cluttered. She had made suggestions to her supervisor to build extra shelving to keep orders (in boxes) off of the floor, but her suggestions were rejected. Instead, he told her that the shipping department would have to reorganize the space and be sure not to trip over boxes. With the co-workers in her department, Judy created a safer and more organized floor plan. After a long weekend, Judy’s co-worker (who had been out of town) put the “ready-to-ship” boxes in the old/usual spot as he was not aware of the new, more efficient and safer set-up. Judy, who was already used to the new floor plan, was not expecting boxes to be in the way, while she hauled an order to the delivery truck. Judy tripped over the box, which was in her path, and hit her head on the floor, causing a concussion.
Judy went to the hospital, was treated for her concussion and was released. She had a headache and sensitivity to light for a week, so she stayed home from work. With orders from her doctor to do light work and try to work in a quieter environment, Judy, afraid that she would be fired after her injury at work, returned to work and asked if she could be switched to gift wrapping department (which required less heavy lifting, was quieter and less busy). The head supervisor had hired a temporary employee to take Judy’s place and said there was no extra work for her to do in the gift department. He suggested that Judy stay home and “rest up” until she could return to her regular assignment. Judy filed for workers’ compensation benefits and five days later, Judy received a letter that she was fired from her job because the company felt that her injury interfered with her ability to work.
Workers’ Compensation: Does it Protect Workers?
According to the Cornell University Law School: Legal Information Institute, workers’ compensation laws protect people who are injured on the job and are designed to ensure that employees, who are injured or disabled on the job, are provided with fixed monetary awards without the need of taking legal action (litigation). In Judy’s case, she had the right to receive workers’ compensation benefits until she was able to return to work. According to Georgia Workers’ Compensation, an injured employee is entitled to receive weekly temporary total disability benefits if the employee misses more than seven days from work.
However, there is no law in Georgia to prevent an employer from dismissing an injured worker who is collecting workers’ compensation benefits. Instead of being fired, due to her injuries, Judy’s employers should have followed Georgia Workers’ Compensation Rules and Regulations. When an employee’s ability to work is restricted due to a work-related injury, a supervisor must take responsibility and contact a workers’ compensation claims administrator for assistance in returning the injured employee to work. Additionally, when attempting to identify appropriate “light duty” work for the employee, the supervisor should work with workers’ compensation administrators, the treating physician, and the injured employee to develop a transitional plan so that the employee can eventually return to full-time/regular duty. If an injured-on-the-job worker feels like they have been treated unfairly, he/she should contact a legal professional who is knowledgeable in workers’ compensation claims, laws, rules, and regulations.
An injured employee should never have to worry about the legal and financial hardships that can occur after a work-related incident. Workers’ Compensation was enacted to protect hard working Americans in the event of a work-related accident. Don’t let your next work injury be the end of your employment.