Inactivity at work ruled compensable for spouse’s benefits
An unusual case has resulted in a finding for the surviving spouse of an overweight, work-at-home AT&T manager.
AT&T manager described as working long hours at home
According to a June 28 piece in Business Insurance, “An obese AT&T manager who died of a blood clot after sitting at her work computer for long hours is entitled to workers compensation survivor benefits, a New Jersey court has ruled.
“The case of James P. Renner vs. AT&T stems from the death of 25-year-old Cathleen Renner, who worked from home and “worked all hours of the day and night” to meet deadlines imposed by her employer, court records state.
“In 2007, she called 911 because she could not breathe and was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital.”
At issue was Ms. Renner’s overweight condition and the inactivity required of her job versus the sedentary nature of her daily life.
Work requirements versus lifestyle
Cathleen Renner, a 25-year employee of AT&T, died in 2007 from a blood clot that formed in her leg and lodged in her lung. She had been working overnight to finish a project in her home office in Edison, where she worked three of five days each week. Her husband filed a workers’ compensation claim on her behalf after her death, claiming the clot developed while she was at her desk.
AT&T appealed, arguing that multiple risk factors unrelated to her job caused the clot. Renner, 47, had an enlarged heart and weighed more than 300 pounds, causing restricted blood flow, according to a medical expert enlisted by AT&T. She had also recently started taking birth control pills, which increase the risk factor blood clots for all women but especially those who are overweight, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Court finds ‘prolonged sitting’ causative
“A medical expert for Mr. Renner,” says the BI report, “said that sitting for an extended period probably led to the formation of blood clots and contributed to Ms. Renner’s death, although he acknowledged she had other risk factors, such as obesity.”
The widower’s contention was that his wife’s death was brought on by working the day of her death, which required prolonged sitting. The court found that to be the case “finding that prolonged inactivity while working caused the pulmonary embolism by a material degree.”
Some fitness and health advocates recommend that office workers and others with sedentary jobs take time to stand and move around during the day, for instance, by taking stairs to a meeting, walking to lunch or even standing and moving about one’s work area.
Texas man sues after getting fired
On the Texas coast, according to a June 21 account in The Southeast Texas Record, “A Baytown man has filed suit against his employer after it allegedly terminated him for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
“A lawsuit filed against Jacobs Engineering, Inc. June 6 in Galveston County District Court insists Michael Stevenson ‘would be entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits in the event that he was injured in the course of his employment.’
“Court papers show Stevenson sustained injuries on Feb. 16, 2010, when he lifted one end of a pipe as instructed by his supervisor.
“As a result, the plaintiff filed a workers’ compensation claim and took other steps to obtain the benefits permitted under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act.”
Subsequently, the original petition says, Stevenson was dismissed from his job. The suit was filed for mental anguish, lost wages and benefits. Texas is the only state that has no requirement for employers to carry workers’ comp insurance, but those who don’t risk costly litigation from inured workers. Jacobs does subscribe to workers’ comp, but state law allows relief for injured workers who are retaliated against for filing for workers’ comp benefits.
California police office pleads not guilty to five counts of fraud
An Oxnard, CA, police officer has a different sort of workers’ comp problem, according to a June 21 account in the Ventura County Star.
An Oxnard police officer pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that he committed workers compensation fraud.
Twenty-six-year-old Edward Idukas, a traffic assistant with the Oxnard Police Department before becoming a police officer in 2007, was arrested mid-month and charged with five counts of workers compensation insurance fraud.
“Senior Deputy District Attorney Ernesto Acosta said Idukas had just returned from a previous injury when he claimed he was hurt on the job,” according to the story. “Idukas was placed on temporary totally disabled status when he reported injuring his back while bending over at his police locker on Dec. 29, 2009. He complained to doctors and physical therapists that he was too disabled to continue his duties as an officer, prosecutors said.”
Idukas reportedly was seen playing in a local softball league even though he was drawing disability benefits.
Idukas pleaded not guilty on all counts and is scheduled for an “early disposition conference” in September; he faces up to “three years in state prison and a $150,000 fine for each count . . . [and] could be ordered to pay about $70,000 in restitution.”
We can help you find an attorney
Frequently enough, a worker’s compensation case may be so complex as to demand legal representation. However, sometimes what seems like a cut-and-dried situation to an injured worker may result in a smaller award than envisioned–or even a denial. Have you, a friend or a loved one been injured on the job? Whether you’re merely seeking answers about your rights or believe a lawsuit may be necessary, be sure to seek counsel with attorneys trained and experienced in workers’ compensation. Here’s some resources: