The main issue in this case was whether the compensation judge erred in admitting
into evidence a reinstatement agreement between the employee and the employer. The
employee, a bus driver with a history of low back problems, claimed he injured his low
back on or about June 30, 2011 while wheeling a wheelchair-bound client into the bus.
The employer terminated the Employee because they claimed he fabricated his claim.
They had checked the videotapes from the claimed date of injury, and the employee had
not even had a wheelchair-bound client that day (although the date of June 30, 2011
was the employee’s estimate of the day his injury had occurred). Also, the employee’s
supervisors said that the employee limped at work, but outside of work, they observed
him walking without a limp and acting outside of his restrictions.
The employee and his union representative reached an agreement with the employer for
the employee’s reinstatement. Pursuant to the agreement, one of the preconditions for
his reinstatement was to win his workers’ compensation case. The employee introduced
this agreement into evidence at the hearing, and the compensation judge admitted it into
evidence over the objection of the Employer and Insurer. The compensation judge then
found for the Employee.
The employer and insurer appealed on two grounds. First, they argued that the
compensation judge aired by admitting the reinstatement agreement into evidence. First,
they argued it was not relevant to the issue of primary liability. Also, they argued that
the admission of the agreement was prejudicial because it created an extra incentive
for the judge to find for the employee because she knew that the employee would only
be reinstated if he won his workers’ compensation case. The W.C.C.A. noted that
pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 176.411, subdivision 1, the common law and statutory rules
of evidence do not apply in workers’ compensation hearings. Further, the admission of
the reinstatement agreement was not prejudicial because the compensation judge did not
even discuss the reinstatement agreement in her Findings and Order, and therefore there
was no evidence that she even gave the reinstatement agreement any weight or that she
was improperly influenced by its admission.
The employer and insurer also argued that the compensation judge erred because
substantial evidence did not support the finding that the Employee had sustained a work-
related low back injury, but the W.C.C.A. disagreed and held that the testimony and
medical records provided substantial evidence to support the compensation judge’s
determinations. Therefore, the Compensation Judge’s decision was affirmed.