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Employer terminates new hires for "preventable" injuries

Questionable employment policies were recently highlighted in a ruling made by a workers' compensation board, which was affirmed in an appeals court after the employer requested that the decision be revisited. According to the case, probationary policies for new employees may be considered discriminatory as well as anti-worker if they include provisions that allow the company to terminate a new employee's position after suffering a "preventable" workplace injury.

The New York Workers' Compensation Board ruled that such policies are in direct conflict with workers' compensation laws because they dissuade employees from reporting injuries that they could otherwise seek compensation for. This is because the company gives itself the ability to determine if an injury is preventable or not, as C&S Wholesale Grocers did in the case of at least one of its employees. The company distributes to grocers and supermarket chains throughout the nation with almost two dozen warehouses across the country.

The employee who was allegedly discriminated against was working in one of these warehouses as an order selector, using a motorized pallet jack to move products around the facility. When he injured his foot, the man reported it to his employer and took a few days off work. He sought medical treatment and when he returned to work, his position was terminated because the company decided that it was a preventable accident. The man was just seven days short of completing his 90-day probationary period, which would have barred the company from firing him.

After being fired, the man decided to apply for workers' compensation benefits and filed a complaint against the company for discrimination. According to his complaint, the man was fired in retaliation for his benefits claim. A judge agreed and the workers' compensation board affirmed the decision. When it was appealed, the panel of judges found in favor of the man as well. The policy will no longer be allowed. Though this case did not happen in Florida, it is important to note that discriminatory policies can affect workers' rights to compensation after an injury. If you have been injured, ask for the advice of an attorney as soon as possible.

Source:  Courthouse News Service, "Workers' Comp Policy Harmed Newer Hires" Marlene Kennedy, Jul. 09, 2013

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