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Injured Employee Adequately Notified Employer, Due Workers' Comp

July 25, 2011
Related Topics: Workers' Compensation, Finance/Taxes, Benefit Design and Communication, Compensation, Latest News
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An injured worker's voice mail and other communications showed that she adequately notified her employer of her injury, entitling her to workers compensation benefits, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court has ruled.
The case of Gentex Corp. and Gallagher Bassett Services vs. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board involves Anne Marie Morack, who had inspected helmets Gentex made for the U.S. Air Force since 1960.
She suffered swelling in her hands from 2003 to 2005. In January 2005, she told a supervisor she had to leave work because of pain.
Pursuant to Gentex's policy, Morack telephoned Gentex for the next five days to update her condition. On Feb. 2, 2005, she applied for short-term disability benefits and indicated on a form that she did not believe her injury was work-related.
However, a rheumatologist later diagnosed her with bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome and other problems and concluded that the injuries were work-related.
Morack testified that after the diagnosis, she immediately called Gentex's human resources department and left voice mails when she could not reach anyone.
In March 2005, the doctor released Morack for work with restrictions. But Gentex did not have a position meeting her restrictions, and Morack subsequently was terminated, court records show.
In October 2006, Morack filed a workers' comp claim and a workers' compensation judge later found she suffered a work-related injury. He also ruled that her complaints of pain, her short-term disability claim and her voice message sufficiently notified her employer of her injury.
A workers' comp appeals board agreed, but a Commonwealth Court judge overturned the decision. That judge found Morack failed to sufficiently describe her injuries to her employer.
But in its ruling July 20, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court disagreed and ruled that the employer was aware that Morack suffered a work-related problem, thus reversing the lower court's order.
The high court said that although Morack's notice to the employer was not “letter perfect,” Pennsylvania's workers' comp law directs that “a meritorious claim ought not, if possible, be defeated for technical reasons.”  
Filed by Roberto Ceniceros of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.
 
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