Employee Penalized For Not Following Safety Rules

In this guest post our colleague Jon L. Gelman of New Jersey highlights a worrisome recent ruling. In the state of Missouri, if an employee does not follow their employers’ safety rules and is injured, their award may be significantly reduced. He points out that this logic works in opposition of what the workers’ compensation act was originally supposed to do, which is to protect workers. With that as its goal, “It would be far more logical to… prevent the unsafe work in the first place.”

An employee’s workers’ compensation award maybe be reduced for failing to follow an employer’s safety rules.

An employee’s workers’ compensation award maybe be reduced for failing to follow an employer’s safety rules. A Missouri Court ruled that reducing an injured employee’s award by 25% to 50% for failing to follow an employer’s safety rules was not unconstitutional.

This ruling may have widespread application in many situations including distracted driving claims, where an employee sustains an accident while using a cell phone in violation of an employer’s cell phone policy. The employer woud still remain responsible for the reduced award and, of course, subject to a 3rd part law suit by a potential 3rd party.

The reduction rule actually places fault back into the workers’ compensation system which both violates the intent of the Act . Such a policy does not compensate for the reduced values (awards) anticipated and prescribed under the workers’ compensation act. While the the logic seems to rational, the application further emasculates the intent of workers’ compensation. It would be far more logical to put the cart before the horse, and work to prevent the unsafe work condition in the first place. Shifting responsibility to the injured worker is not consistent with the act’s intent.

Thompson v. ICI American Holding, 2011 WL 3444008 (Mo.App. W.D.) Decided, August 9, 2011

For over 3 decades the Law Offices of Jon L. Gelman in New Jersey have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses. Jon is a prolific author, public speaker and educator on the topic of workers’ compensation law.

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