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Daycare worker fired after injury entitled to comp benefits

Posted On: Apr. 13, 2017 10:59 AM CST

Slip and fall

A daycare worker who was injured when she slipped on ice outside the center where she worked and was subsequently terminated for missing work for medical appointments related to her injuries is entitled to workers compensation benefits, a Pennsylvania appeals court ruled Tuesday.

Christina DiGiorgio was a preschool teacher at Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania-based A-Z Learning Daycare in February 2013 when she slipped on ice in the daycare’s parking lot, injuring her lower back and right knee. Ms. DiGiorgio reported the injury to the preschool director that morning and left work to seek treatment. She was referred to an orthopedic surgeon and returned to work after missing one day of work, according to court documents.

An orthopedic surgeon treated Ms. DiGiorgio’s knee injury, which was diagnosed as tears to the ACL and meniscus consistent with a slip and fall. Ms. DiGiorgio ultimately underwent surgery to repair the injury, court records show.

Ms. DiGiorgio sought treatment from a different orthopedic surgeon for her back injury, which was diagnosed as a lumbar sprain or strain related to a slip and fall. The doctor restricted her to sedentary work, according to court documents.

In May 2013, Ms. DiGiorgio sought guidance from her employer regarding workers comp coverage. That week, Ms. DiGiorgio said the daycare director informed her that her employment was being terminated because her medical appointments were interfering with her job, court records show.

In May 2014, Ms. DiGiorgio filed a petition seeking full disability for work-related injuries. The company denied Ms. DiGiorgio’s allegations. She also filed a claim petition with the Uninsured Employer Guarantee Fund, which acknowledged receiving a notice of a claim against the employer but denied the remaining allegations, according to court documents.

A workers comp judge granted the claim petitions, saying Ms. DiGiorgio was entitled to temporary total disability benefits and that the employer, which did not have workers comp insurance, was responsible to pay medical expenses and litigation costs. The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board affirmed the decision, court records show.

A three-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania considered the employer’s appeal in A-Z Learning Daycare vs. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board and affirmed the board’s order.

The employer claimed in its appeal that Ms. DiGiorgio’s doctors were not competent to testify because they were not told that Ms. DiGiorgio was injured at work and did not possess an accurate history of the injuries. The appeals court determined that their testimony was competent as to medical causation of the injury regardless of whether they knew exactly where the injury occurred.

“Neither this court nor the board in their appellate capacities is entitled to reassess the credibility of witnesses or to reweigh their testimony,” the court said.

The employer also contended that the board erred in affirming the workers comp judge’s determination that there was no credible evidence that the employer had cause to terminate Ms. DiGiorgio’s employment. The assistant director of the daycare testified that Ms. DiGiorgio was terminated for willful misconduct. The judge dismissed that testimony as not credible and the appeals court upheld that determination.

Representatives of A-Z Learning Daycare were not immediately available to comment.