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Policy Limits Workers Compensation Claims Unfairly, Says Court

A New York appeals court ruled that a business's probation policy discriminated against new employees who suffered workplace injuries. C & S Wholesale grocers, the biggest wholesale grocery supplier in the United States with three warehouses in New York, fired a probationary employee after he reported being injured one week before completing his probationary period.

The company's training materials contained a document informing new hires that any "preventable" injury that happened during probation would lead to termination. The worker in question signed the form when he began working for the C & S.

After he injured his foot while operating a pallet jack, he reported the accident to the company. Received medical treatment and was out sick for a few days. When he returned, he was fired. The company said that his injury was 'preventable" and had occurred because he had not operated the jack correctly.

He then filed for worker' compensation benefits and initiated a discrimination complaint with the state Worker's Compensation Board, charging that the company had retaliated because the worker had sought company benefits.

An administrative law judge ruled that the C & S probation policy violated workers' compensation law. Later, the full board affirmed the judge's decision. C & S appealed, but the decision was upheld at the appeals level.

The New York workers' compensation law is supposed to protect workers who file benefit claims or are even thinking about filing benefit claims. The court determined that the 90-day policy dissuades probationary employees injured in work-related accidents from seeking workers' compensation. The court said that the policy is counter to the Legislature's intended purpose of insuring that employees can exercise their rights.