Worker Who Refused Light Duty Work Not Eligible for Disability Benefits
Roxanne Milliron, a package handler for Federal Express, or FedEx, was unloading boxes off a semi-trailer when a 70-pound package fell and struck her left elbow. She returned to work the next day, but the pain was severe enough for a visit to her primary care physician.
A few days later, Milliron was cleared for work with restriction of use of her left arm. FedEx looked to find light duty work to suit Milliron’s needs and instructed her to sort trash as part of the company’s accommodations. But she refused the assignment.
Instead, Milliron filed for workers’ compensation and temporary disability benefits. FedEx’s TPA, Sedgwick, accepted the claim for workers’ comp but denied disability. Milliron quickly requested a hearing with the state’s commission, asserting lost time from work qualified her for temporary disability benefits.
She also stated that she didn’t do the work she was asked to do — sorting trash — because she thought she was restricted from the activity. In her argument, Milliron believed she would have needed two arms to remove trash can lids. Milliron also said her manager selected this “demeaning” task, because he was angry at her for being injured.
Upon further medical examination from FedEx’s physician, the doctor discovered that her elbow had an acute partial tear, but this did not require any additional treatment, nor did it have any diagnosable condition that gave her permanent impairment. The assessment to send her back for light duty work was the best solution, he said.
A judge denied Milliron’s request for disability, saying she was offered light duty employment with restrictions, but she refused.
The court was not required to take Milliron’s personal physician into account, and ultimately, the court said FedEx had been able to establish light duty work for Milliron, but she refused. Therefore, she was capable of returning. It denied her request for disability benefits.
Scorecard: The court of appeals supported the judge’s decision to deny disability benefits for Roxanne Milliron.
Takeaway: Finding appropriate light duty return-to-work tasks might help an injured worker feel welcomed back to the job and less likely to bring the case to court. &