Healthcare News & Insights

Did direct care aide’s injury — or the unemployment rate — make her unable to work?

A caregiver who injured her shoulder on the job and could no longer meet the lifting requirements sued for workers’ comp due to the disability. Did she qualify?

No, according to a  Mississippi court.

In the case, a direct care aide at a group home tore her rotator cuff while lifting a patient from a wheelchair. After surgery and physical therapy, she still had only about 90% use of her arm. That prevented her from meeting the physical requirements of the job she had been doing, as well as many others like it.

Her employer terminated her. Despite applying for 194 open positions, she was unable to find a new job. Part of the problem was that the part of the state where she lives has a much higher than average unemployment rate, and her reduced ability to lift things excluded her from doing many of the few jobs that were hiring.

She sued for workers’ available comp, claiming that the injury which left her unable to lift also prevented her from finding appropriate work.

The comp board disagreed — as did the Montgomery County Court and the Circuit Court of Appeals.  Their reasoning: The high unemployment rate showed that jobs in general were scarce, and there was no reason to believe that even if she hadn’t been injured she would’ve had an easier time finding work.

Is that a fair conclusion? Hard to say. After all, if she hadn’t been injured, she probably wouldn’t be looking for a new job right now. Share your thoughts on the case in the comments.

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  1. Leo Turgeon says:

    Having been in managment positions for many years, I have seen my share of “gaming” of the workers comp system, but I must say the decision of the courts in this case is baffling in its basic unfairness. If she did in fact injure her arm on the job, which resulted in her not being able to perform the job and getting fired because she could not do her job, she should be eligible for workers comp. If there was reasonable doubt that the injury actually happened while she was working,if she was offered another position by the employer where she could have managed the work with this reduced capacity and she refused that, or if there was mixed medical opinion as to how much capacity she had lost, I could understand how they might deny her claim. But in my opinion, the scarcity of jobs in her community should have nothing to do with the decision-the reason she could no longer do her job should be the deciding factor in the courts decision.