Question: We have an employee on a worker's compensation claim. He is being very uncooperative with returning phone calls, showing up for doctor's appointments, and turning in paper work. What can we do regarding this situation?
Answer: The workers’ compensation law of most states prohibit employers from terminating employees who have filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. There may be exceptions due to employee “misconduct,” but that is generally a pretty high standard. On the facts you've sent to me, the employee may not be cooperating, but his conduct may not rise to the level of defeating his statutory protection. Thus, it would not be advisable to terminate this employee while he is on workers’ compensation or to discipline him when he returns to work. It is permissible for the employer to call the employee at home and to track the employee's progress. You may also want to check with your insurance carrier to see what conditions apply to this employee's eligibility for continued coverage, but this is an area in which employers generally need to tread lightly.
This response is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion, nor is this column a substitute for formal legal assistance. For help with particular legal needs, members are invited to consult with ACCA’s LegalTools Counsel, Brooke Duncan III of Adams and Reese LLP. Mr. Duncan can be reached at 504-585-0220 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.