Some experts advise companies to make light-duty tasks for injured workers tedious to help motivate the employees to return to their regular tasks. It appears this injured worker’s light duty was so boring that she fell asleep on the job.
Christina Wellington injured her wrist working for Bemis Company in Pennsylvania.
She was given a light duty job “sitting at a table and flipping through plastic bags,” according to court records.
One day, the company safety specialist caught Wellington sleeping at her light-duty job for about five minutes. He took a photo and a short video of her sleeping. The company fired her.
Wellington filed a workers’ comp claim, including a request for wage benefits after she was fired.
A workers’ comp judge granted her injury claim for medical coverage but held that she was not eligible for wage benefits because she was fired for bad faith. She appealed to the Worker’s Compensation Board which upheld the judge’s ruling. She then took her case to a state court.
Bemis presented evidence that sleeping on the job was a rule violation punishable by suspension or firing and that Wellington was aware of that policy. The safety specialist testified, and the photo and video of Wellington sleeping were entered as evidence.
Wellington claimed she wasn’t sleeping, saying that in the video, the hoodie she was wearing obscured her eyes, making it difficult to see if she was really sleeping.
She also claimed that others at Bemis hadn’t received the same punishment for sleeping on the job.
Bemis’ Human Resources Manager testified about the differences between the various cases of sleeping on the job.
The court said the testimony of the HR and safety managers and the photographic and video evidence were more than enough to uphold the ruling that Wellington was fired for bad faith and she shouldn’t receive workers’ comp wage benefits.
One thought on this case: This company had enough instances of workers falling asleep on the job so that the HR Manager could distinguish between those that were fireable offenses and those that weren’t. How many instances of workers falling asleep on the job have you had? And have you found that making light-duty jobs undesirable helps motivate injured employees to get back to their regular jobs? Let us know in the comments below.
(Wellington v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board, Commonwealth Court of PA, No. 658 C.D. 2011, 10/28/11)