You Be the Judge

Is Injury During Pre-Hire Physical Exam Compensable?

After suffering an injury during pre-employment testing, a job candidate files a claim for workers' comp.
By: | May 19, 2014

A job candidate received a contingent job offer from the Medical Center at Bowling Green. The offer was contingent upon her successfully completing a physical examination and a substance abuse screening. As part of the physical examination, the candidate was required to lift weights ranging from 10 to 61 pounds. While lifting the heaviest weight, she felt pain in her neck, arms, and shoulder. She did not initially report the pain for fear of losing the job offer.

The candidate officially began her employment with the medical center a few weeks later. Subsequently, she sought medical treatment and was informed that she needed surgery for her neck injury.

She sought workers’ compensation, claiming that she sustained the injury while performing pre-job placement as an employee of the medical center. The medical center denied the claim on the ground that she was not an employee at the time of her injury.

The administrative law judge dismissed the claim, finding that she was not in the service of, under any contract of hire with, or performing any service in the trade, business, profession, or occupation of the medical center. The Workers’ Compensation Board affirmed the ALJ’s decision.

The candidate appealed.

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How the court ruled: The court explained that under the workers’ compensation law employees are defined as “every person performing service in the course of the trade, business, or occupation of an employer at the time of the injury.” During the candidate’s physical examination, she “produced no product, completed no task, and did not in any way benefit” the medical center. The court also pointed out that the candidate did not receive or expect to receive compensation for her time spent at the physical examination. The court said that the “essence of compensation protection is the restoration of a part of wages which are assumed to have existed.” The court explained that no such assumption could be made based on a preemployment, qualifying physical examination.

A is correct.The Kentucky Court of Appeals held that the candidate was not entitled to benefits because she was not an employee of the medical center at the time of her injury. Rahla v. Medical Center at Bowling Green, No. 2013-CA-001712-WC (Ky. Ct. App. 04/11/14).

B is incorrect.The court found that the candidate’s physical examination did not offer a direct benefit to the medical center. The examination was not a “service in the course of the trade, business, or occupation” of the medical center.

C is incorrect. The court disagreed with the candidate’s argument that the intent of the workers’ compensation laws would be furthered by including individuals who are, in essence, still in the application phase of their employment.

Editor’s note: This feature is not intended as instructional material or to replace legal advice.

Christina Lumbreras is a Legal Editor for Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected]

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