Halvorson v. B&F Fastener Supply and Selective Ins. Grp.

Halvorson v. B&F Fastener Supply and Selective Ins. Grp., No. WC15-5869 (May 9, 2016)

Where the parties expressly limited the issue before the judge to whether the employee was a “qualified employee,” a finding that she was not does not substantiate the discontinuance of rehabilitation.

The employee, after injuring multiple body parts while working full time at B&F, spent more than two years off work, receiving temporary total disability. She then returned to part-time work at various stints of employment with different respective employers. By the time this suit came about, it was seven years after her injury. She was working at McDonald’s part time and sought rehabilitation services for 12 weeks with the chance to reevaluate thereafter if necessary, noting that she was still healing and that her permanent restrictions were unknown to date. A chart note indicated the permanency of the employee’s lifting and bending restrictions along with a limited 20-hour work week.

The employer and insurer sought termination of rehabilitation services alleging she was no longer a “qualified employee” under Minn. R. 5220.0100, Subp. 22 for gaining suitable employment at McDonald’s, and that there was good cause to terminate such services under Minn. R. 5220.0510, subp. 5 as she was unlikely to benefit from rehabilitation.

The WCCA demarcated the statutory context of “qualified employee” from rehabilitation services, concluding that caselaw analyzes the former only in the context of what rises to the level of suitable gainful employment. Instead, courts need to examine rehabilitation under Minn R. 5220.0510, subp. 5 (d) and Minn. Stat 176.102, subd 8 (e) where a compensation judge may close or suspend rehabilitation services when the employee is “not likely to benefit from further rehabilitation services.”

The Court of Appeals thus reversed the lower Court’s decision to discontinue rehabilitation benefits as it did not assess the case under the appropriate rule and statute.