Given a choice to be fired or quit because of an overuse injury?
This happened back in 2006, I know the statute of limitations in California is 2 years but I thought I’d ask anyways. I was just hanging out with some friends the other day and bad past job experiences came up in the conversation. I shared my story and my friends urged me to look into this, because it sounded very wrong to them. I never thought about a lawsuit before.
Here is what happened...
I was working at a warehouse facility for a large national big box store. I was in the re-work area where employees haul around large pallets of product using small hand trucks. After working there for a while my left knee started causing me pain. The pain got worse over a few weeks.
I went to management about this issue – I knew it was from getting stuck with the heaviest pallets and having to move them around by hand (I’m a 5’5” woman). They told me I could not file a workers' compensation claim because it was not an “on the job accident” that required a drug test. I went to my normal doctor anyways since the pain was so great.
After a few more weeks my knee hurt enough from overuse to where I couldn’t perform my normal job duties. After speaking with management they agreed to move me to a different part of the warehouse where I basically just stood around and put state tax stickers on cigarette boxes.
My knee pain continued to where management provided me a stool for sitting so I could continue working. Finally, management came to me and told me that I had to either quit my job or I was going to be fired at the end of the week. They stated other employees were complaining that I was getting special treatment so I had to go either way.
They no longer backed me up regarding the injury. They started saying they never told me I could sit on the job, it was only for a week, and various other excuses. I was young and didn’t know any better, so I quit so I wouldn’t have a firing on my work history.
Thinking back now, after speaking with my friends, it was a very wrong situation. I’ve heard from other people over the years that they or someone close to them had a similar situation - work related injury that was not a worker’s compensation claim because it wasn’t an accident that required a drug test.
Even though it’s beyond the statute of limitations, is there anything I can do? I still have a lot of issues with my knee. It’s difficult for me to exercise to keep in good health. I have trouble with walking too much, standing too much, and now my knee pain has caused me to injure my foot. What can I do? Thank you.
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ANSWER for "Given a choice to be fired or quit because of an overuse injury?":
Brenna (Pasadena, CA):
Unfortunately, you are correct. The statute of limitations has long run out for a workers' compensation claim. What is curious is why, back in 2006, your employer told you workers' comp would not cover you because "...it was not an on-the-job accident that required a drug test." That just doesn't make sense.
In almost all cases, an on-the-job injury is covered by workers' comp insurance.
In the alternative, while it's true that if an injury occurred on the job (while the worker was performing his or her duties in the normal scope of their employment), the worker should be covered, there is an exception...
If it could be proved the worker’s injury was caused by intoxication or impairment due to the ingestion of alcohol or other drug, then the workers' comp injury claim could legitimately be denied. That doesn't seem to have been the case based on the information in your question.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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