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WORKERS' COMPENSATION LAW

What is the purpose of workers' compensation?

Workers' compensation is designed to provide an expedited manner for employees injured on the job to recover money and receive medical benefits for injuries that they suffer on the job. Before the advent of workers compensation laws in the early part of the twentieth century, employees would have to sue their employers in order to receive compensation for injuries on the job. This led to a situation in which workers often could not work because of their injury and received no medical coverage from their employers for the injuries. Workers compensation laws provide an avenue in which employees receive quicker benefits in exchange for not suing their employers in court.

Of course, sometimes employees could not recover in tort against their employers because the work-related injuries were the fault of the employee more so than the employer. Usually negligence is not an issue in workers compensation. As long as the injury is sufficiently work-related, then the employee can recover workers compensation benefits.

LegalSpeak: Bertrand v. Children's Home (D. Md. 2007)

Defendants in FLSA cases have the burden to "prove by clear and convincing evidence that an employee qualifies for exemption." In making this showing, "[t]he employer has the burden of establishing by affirmative evidence all the necessary requirements of the exemption....

Here, although particular items of evidence in the record concerning Bertrand's duties support one or the other of the parties' arguments, a reasonable jury could easily conclude that Bertrand's work was essentially and predominantly clerical in nature, and not administrative or managerial. Indeed, Bertrand's former boss described her duties, in part, as "providing secretarial support across various departments" including scheduling and dealing with vendors. Likewise, plaintiff described at length in her deposition her secretarial duties, which included ordering supplies, taking minutes at company meetings, completing forms, and, under supervision, distributing petty cash..

In sum, although the services plaintiff provided to TCH were valuable and important to its operations, defendant's showing here does not establish as a matter of law, bearing in mind the burden of proof here of clear and convincing evidence, that plaintiff's duties "directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer."

Why is workers' compensation considered a form of compromise?

It is a compromise because the employee gives up the opportunity to sue for large damage awards in a tort case in exchange for the quicker (usually) benefits of workers compensation. The employer receives the benefit of knowing that the workers compensation claim is the exclusive and only remedy for the employee. Thus, the employer knows that it will not face the specter of large damage awards.

What entity handles worker compensation claims?

The employee does not file a worker compensation claim in a court, such as is done with a traditional civil law contract or tort claim. Instead, an employee files a worker compensation claim before an administrative board. If the employee loses administratively, then the employee can appeal to a court.

What is considered a work-related injury?

An employee's injury is covered by workers' compensation if the injury arises out of employment and is in the course of the employment relationship. If the injury meets

LegalSpeak: Walling v. A.H. Belo Corp. (1942)

The problem presented by this case is difficult—difficult because we are asked to provide a rigid definition of "regular rate" when Congress has failed to provide one. Presumably Congress refrained from attempting such a definition because the employment relationships to which the Act would apply were so various and unpredictable. And that which it was unwise for Congress to do, this Court should not do. When employer and employees have agreed upon an arrangement which has proven mutually satisfactory, we should not upset it and approve an inflexible and artificial interpretation of the Act which finds no support in its text and which as a practical matter eliminates the possibility of steady income to employees with irregular hours. Where the question is as close as this one, it is well to follow the Congressional lead and to afford the fullest possible scope to agreements among the individuals who are actually affected. This policy is based upon a common-sense recognition of the special problems confronting employer and employee in businesses where the work hours fluctuate from week to week and from day to day. Many such employees value the security of a regular weekly income. They want to operate on a family budget, to make commitments for payments on homes and automobiles and insurance. Congress has said nothing to prevent this desirable objective. This Court should not.

LegalSpeak: A court striking down a tipping pool arrangement— Wajcman v. Investment Corp. of Palm Beach (D. Fla. 2009)

However, the Court finds that Defendant's belief regarding its FLSA compliance was not objectively reasonable. First, there are a number of cases which suggest that an employee's level of customer interaction is the most significant factor in evaluating whether he qualifies as a "tipped employee" under the FLSA....

Here, however, the bulk of the evidence before this Court suggests that the floor supervisors in Defendant's cardroom had only de minimus customer interaction. Although the written job description mentions that floor supervisors will have "[d]aily contact with customers," the evidence demonstrates that such contact did not rise to the level of customer interaction usually associated with a tipped employee. Indeed, the testimony at trial indicated that the floor supervisors' interaction with customers was sporadic and only on an as-needed basis for dispute resolution or when hosts, chip runners or waitresses were unavailable. As their job description sets forth, the floor supervisors' primary responsibility was to supervise the employees on the cardroom floor, which included assigning the dealers' table rotations, their break times and ensuring employees' compliance with the dress code.

Based on this testimony, the Court finds that Defendant overstated the customer interaction component of the floor supervisors' duties to justify their inclusion in the tip pool. The Court further finds that Defendant underestimated the significance of the "customer interaction" test, relying too heavily on industry practice to support its decision to include the floor supervisors in the tip pool. This combination of errors resulted in Defendant's grossly miscalculated conclusion that the floor supervisors were proper participants in the tip pool. Indeed, the jury's verdict suggests that an average person outside the gaming industry would not agree with Defendant's characterization of the floor supervisors as having significant customer interaction and such a skewed perception cannot be construed by this Court as objectively reasonable.

these two criteria—(1) arising out of and (2) in the course of—then the employee can receive worker compensation benefits even if the employer was not negligent.

 
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