Ahmed v. Loop Parking Co and SFM Mut. Ins. Co.

Ahmed v. Loop Parking Co and SFM Mut. Ins. Co., (W.C.C.A. October 15, 2013)

The employee unsuccessfully appealed an order granting discontinuance of temporary total disability benefits because he had refused an offer of work under Minn. Stat. § 176.01, subd. 1(i).

The employee worked as a parking lot attendant during the day shift.  The employer lost its account with the parking lot the employee attended.  But instead of terminating him, the employer temporarily moved the employee to the night shift at a different parking lot.

While working the night shift, the employee sustained an admitted work injury to his right knee in January 212.  He had right knee surgery in October 2012 and on December 6, 2012 he was released to work with restrictions (no running or retrieving vehicles).

On December 14, 2012, a general manager contacted the employee and left him a voicemail message offering him a parking lot cashier job during the night shift.  A written job description was mailed to the employee’s QRC.  The employee did not dispute the job was within his restrictions.

On Saturday, December 15, the employee called the general manager back and stated he would need until Monday in order to arrange child care.  He called again on Monday stating he was having difficulty making such arrangements.  The parties agreed the employee would let the employer know whether or not he accepted the job by December 24, 2012.

On December 22, the employee went to urgent care due to right upper back and shoulder pain that he attributed to having to use his cane for his right knee injury.  No work restrictions were imposed.

After this appointment, the employee called the general manager.  The general manager claims the employee said he was having new health issues and declined the offer.  But the employee claims he never said that.

Before the end of business on December 24 (the last day to accept the job) the general manager sent the employee’s QRC an email stating the employee “was unable to return to work at the position we offered him” and the employer had to fill the position with another employee.

Following a hearing on the matter, a compensation found the employee had refused an offer of work under Minn. Stat. § 176.01, subd. 1(i) and granted discontinuance of temporary total disability compensation.

Under the statute, temporary total disability benefits shall cease if the employee refuses an offer of work consistent with a plan of rehabilitation filed with the commissioner or, in the absence of such a plan, if the employee refuses an offer of suitable employment that the employee can do in his physical condition.  Refusal of a job offer may be construed where it is clearly apparent from the employee’s conduct.  An example is when there is an unjustifiable and intentional failure to respond to the job offer in a reasonable time.  Opsahl v. K & S Hearing, No. WC06-134 (W.C.C.A. August 15, 2006).

Here, the compensation judge weighed the credibility of the employee against the general manager, who testified the employee had refused the job during the phone conversation on December 22.  The judge concluded [i]t is reasonable to consider it a refusal of the job offer when the employee did not accept the job by the deadline, request an extension of time, or provide medical documentation of [an]inability to work.”

Additionally, the WCCA did not buy the employee’s argument that the employer had unilaterally withdrawn the job offer on December 24 by emailing the QRC before the end-of-day deadline.  There was no evidence the employee made any attempt to accept the offer by the deadline.  Likewise, there was no evidence that the email deterred the employee from pursuing the job.

Finally, the WCCA upheld the finding that the employee had a reasonable period of time to respond to the employer’s job offer.  Despite his limited English language skills, the employee did not allege at the hearing he did not understand the job offer or its timing conditions.