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Injury suffered in pre-employment test is compensable

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Pre-employment testing of job applicants can prevent workers compensation claims down the line, but an employee who gets injured while undergoing the test may well be due comp benefits.

Pre-employment tests are a way to make sure applicants can safely perform essential functions of a job before they're put to work, sources said.

Many employers utilize the cost-containment strategy, particularly those with workers in positions that require heavy lifting or have extreme physical requirements, said Trish Ennis, Denver-based senior loss control consultant at Holmes Murphy & Associates.

Driving and agility tests also are common in industries such as trucking.

In a decision last week in Averitt Express Inc. v. Kevin Collins, the Mississippi Court of Appeals ruled that the knee injury Mr. Collins suffered during a pre-employment driving and agility test for the Cookeville, Tennessee-based company is compensable.

Pre-employment testing injuries are “exceedingly rare,” Dr. Fred Kohanna, Woburn, Massachusetts-based corporate medical director of occupational health services firm AllOne Health Group Inc., said in an email.

After applying for a truck driver position with Averitt in 2012, Mr. Collins received a letter offering him a job that was contingent on him passing a road test, court records show. The letter also welcomed him to Averitt and called him a “member of our team.”

Mr. Collins, however, failed the road test, leading the company to rescind the job offer when he reported for orientation the next day, according to records. He said he had injured his knee while attempting to enter and exit the truck trailer during the test and filed a claim for workers comp.

An administrative law judge with the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission and, later, the Mississippi Court of Appeals ruled that under an “implied contract of hire,” Mr. Collins was entitled to benefits as an Averitt employee.

Typically, an applicant's employment is conditional on being able to perform the essential job functions with or without accommodation, Dr. Kohanna said.

Mr. Collins, however, received compensation — in the form of $238.68 for mileage and a $75 per diem — from the company, Dr. Kohanna said in citing the Mississippi court's split decision.

To prevent pre-employment screening injuries and subsequent workers comp claims, employers should work closely with the facility administering the test to make sure precautions are taken, Ms. Ennis said.

The person administering the test should “do a good pre-assessment with the employee before throwing them into the heavy lifting piece,” Ms. Ennis said. “If they question whether the employee can do it, they should have the ability to call off the exam.”

In addition, “it's prudent to ask during the exam” if anything hurts or if an applicant feels discomfort to make sure he or she “isn't overdoing it in an attempt to get a job,” she said.

In addition, Dr. Kohanna said applicants should be asked to “review the required elements of the functional assessment to make certain they are comfortable performing it. A consent form with a release of liability for the company is then typically signed by the applicant.”