Worker Who Refused Light Duty Work Not Eligible for Disability Benefits

An FedEx worker was offered light duty work after injury, but the worker claimed she was unable to do it and filed for temporary disability.
By: | November 29, 2018 • 2 min read

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.

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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. &

Autumn Heisler is the digital producer and a staff writer at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]