No Leave Benefit Goes Unpunished

By Bill Wright

A worker is injured – seriously injured – and goes out on long term leave. He files a workers compensation claim. The comp. claim stalls and, for 11 years, the employer pays insurance benefits for the worker with no end in sight. Finally, the employer notifies the worker that, if he is unable to return to work, the company will separate his employment. The result? A lawsuit, of course. Brooks v. Pactive Corp., No. 12-1155 (7th Cir. September 6, 2013).

After dismissal in the trial court, the court of appeals resurrected the worker’s claim for workers comp. retaliation. Although it had been 11 years since the worker filed a claim for compensation, negotiations on a settlement had stalled more recently and his medical costs recently soared. The court ruled that it was possible, even plausible given the allegations, that the company had decided to let the worker go at that time because of the workers comp. claim and not because he was unable to perform his job.

Even a decade of patiently providing a worker with insurance benefits is no protection from litigation. We can hope the employer wins on the merits, but it’ll have to face the legal fees.

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