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Employee raped at work entitled to maximum workers comp benefits: Court

Posted On: Dec. 19, 2012 12:00 AM CST

A Missouri fast food worker who was raped while at work should receive the state's maximum workers compensation benefits because her employer filed a late response to her claim, the Missouri Court of Appeals says.

The woman, identified in court filings as "T.H.", worked for Sonic Drive In of High Ridge in Missouri. She was raped by a coworker in November 2006, and filed a workers comp claim in November 2008 based on physical and psychological injuries that she suffered in the attack.

In her filing, the woman sought to receive the state’s maximum benefit amount, though she reportedly did not remember how much money she made at the time of her attack.

An administrative law judge awarded permanent partial disability benefits to the woman at a rate of $376.55 per week — the maximum weekly PPD benefit in Missouri, court records show. The judge's award was based on Sonic filing its response to the workers claim in March 2009, well beyond the 30-day deadline for timely filings in the case.

On review, the Missouri Labor and Industrial Relations Commission affirmed the claimant's PPD benefits. However, it reduced her benefits to the state minimum level of $40 per week, saying that the worker failed to prove her average weekly wage.

In a unanimous decision Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the claimant's PPD award and ruled that she should receive maximum weekly benefits in her case. In its ruling, the court said Sonic’s untimely filing should be treated as an admission that the claimant was entitled to maximum benefits.

"Wage rate is a question of fact," the ruling reads. "Given that employer has failed to file a timely answer, the 'max' wage rate as alleged in claimant's claim for compensation was a factual allegation deemed admitted by employer."

The case was remanded to the labor commission, which has been ordered to grant the claimant weekly benefits of $376.55 per week.