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To the editor: The April 21 article "Written Policies Reduce Risk in Firing Workers Comp Abusers" leaves one with the impression that it is OK to terminate an injured worker, as long as you have written policies which may or may not protect you if you get sued.
The presenters at this Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. conference session overlook several important points:
Firing an injured worker is the fastest way to lose at a discontinuance hearing, as the employee will wave the termination notice in front of the judge and say, "I would love to go back to work, but they fired me because I could not meet their expectations, could not tolerate the position, etc."
Most judges, given that the workers compensation systems was set up to protect the injured employee, will side with the terminated employee who has some earning capacity but no place to use it.
Firing is the wrong thing to do. Injury, especially serious, traumatic injury, can turn a perfectly normal person into a temporarily unstable, guarded person afraid of taking risks. Is the "abuse" real or a manifestation of the injured person's psychological defense mechanisms?
Your supervisor must assess why the person is abusing. Is it because he/she cannot physically tolerate the work? Is it because he/she must go for treatment? Is there a legitimate reason for taking time off?
There is no sound business reason to terminate an injured employee who has decided he or she would rather not be back at work. Do you gain financially? No, on the contrary, as most often you are saddled with additional premium payments for three years.
You should spend your time and energy figuring out how to get your injured employee back to work and keeping him or her on the job.
Robert K. Tuman
Compensation Claims Review Corp.