We have heard many many stories of injured workers who have been unlawfully sacked, just because they have lodged a workcover claim, or just because they are injured and seen as pain in the b*tt. Employers have become very creative when it comes to finding “reasons” for dismissing injured workers, including using the excuse that the risk of re-injury is too great…It happened to me! In this NSW legal case a Court has rejected an employer’s claim that a rehabilitated worker would re-injure herself if reinstated.
Injured worker sacked on basis of risk of re-injury – judge ordered reinstatement
In 2006, a State Transit Authority (STA) bus driver had sustained a strain injury to her lower back, her neck and her side. She reported the workplace injury but, at the time, continued to work and did not require time off work. However a year later (Mar 2007), the bus driver suffered an aggravation of her injuries and needed time off work. When she tried to return to work, she relapsed and she consequently remained unfit for work until the following year (Oct 2008).
The bus driver returned to work in Oct 2008, with a medical certificate of capacity.
After having undergone her treatment successfully, the bus driver applied for a reinstatement into her job. She stated that her treatment had been successful and that she had also been medically certified fit to work as a bus driver. However, her employer (STA) refused her reinstatement based on their belief that risk of injury to the bus driver was too high.
The bus driver subsequently lodged a claim for reinstatement under s242 of the State Workers Compensation Act 1987.
At the hearing, the employer [STA] stated, in its defense, that the bus driver was only certified fit to drive the depot’s newer vehicles, which implied she was not fit to drive all of its buses. They also claimed that a “practical assessment” by a physiotherapist clearly showed that there was a “genuine risk” of the bus driver re-injuring herself if she were to return to unrestricted duties.
In her defense, the bus driver contended that her own treating doctor had certified her fit for normal duties. She also argued that the physiotherapist’s assessment that the employer was relying on was not medical evidence. She also showed that her own treating physiotherapist had clearly determined that she had developed the skills to avoid re-injury.
Commissioner MacDonald also said that the bus driver’s own physiotherapist and treating doctor had read and disagreed with the employer’s assessment. “Their views were not expressed in ignorance of the report.
“Of importance is the [worker's] supporting testimony that… physiotherapy treatment provided her with the technique for the correct use of her muscles for carrying out tasks to avoid pain.”
Lesson: Don’t let employers [and their workcover insurer] get away with bullsh*t excuses for either sacking you or, as in this case, refusing to reinstate you!
For example, let’s say your [pathetic] employer says that you are unfit for work, although you have a certificate of capacity [with restrictions/modified duties] and refuses your return to work, even though you may have been performing those very same duties prior to your treatment/exacerbation/surgery/whatever and had a “good performance evaluation”. Simply put, here is the employer [and insurer!] telling YOU that you are unfit to work — this can be a goldmine, or certainly work much in your advantage when you go to court and argue about “capacity for work” and “[future] economic loss”.
[post entirely entered by T on behalf of workcovervictim]