They say no good deed goes unpunished. Sadly, this happened to an injured Illinois worker in a case that was recently decided at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.
In this case, the worker was employed as a spotter for a trucking company. His job was to move tractor-trailers at a food processing plant. He’d move trailers of product to different docks at the plant depending on where workers were actually working at the time. He was not expected to do any lifting.
On the day he got hurt, he was instructed to get a trailer containing barrels of cardboard containers that were used to ship products. A plant employee then asked him to help move the barrels from the trailer to a skid loader. While doing that, he fell and injured his knee and wrist.
He was clearly trying to be a good guy and help out, but as I said, no good deed goes unpunished. The employer, through their insurance company, denied his benefits. Their argument was that he was performing a voluntary activity that he knew was outside the scope of his job duties. This case went all the way to the Illinois Appellate Court and thankfully, he won.
There are a few reasons for the victory and why the denial was ludicrous. First off, he had testified that he had done this before and seen many other spotters do the same thing. Of course, nobody was reprimanded at those times. Companies want the work to get done and if that means a spotter helps lift instead of standing around, that’s awesome. When deviating from your normal job activities is common, that becomes part of the job.
Second, while lifting wasn’t a part of his duties, he was never instructed not to do it and the job was performed without supervision.
Third, he wasn’t a volunteer when he did this. This was a reasonable extension of his normal job duties and for the benefit of everyone.
The Court rightly found all of these arguments by the insurance company to be without merit and even disingenuous. This wasn’t some guy goofing off or going drastically away from the goals of the company. He was being a good guy and a good co-worker.
Cases like this honestly drive me nuts because it shows that some employers just treat their workers as disposable. And then when they can’t find good workers or people quit, they act all high and mighty as if the workers are the problem. If a company wants to prevent work injuries, the number one thing they can do is to create a good work culture and pay their people well. Who would want to work in a place that tries to punish you when you are hurt while trying to lend a hand?
The bottom line is that just because you aren’t doing your “normal” job duties doesn’t mean your injury isn’t covered under the Work Comp Act. If you have had benefits denied or have any questions, please contact us for free at any time.