Was an employee’s skin condition caused or simply aggravated by contact with chemicals at work? The distinction played an important part in this workers’ comp case.
An employee developed psoriasis after being exposed to chemical cleaning agents at work.
After leaving her job voluntarily, she sought workers’ comp benefits on the grounds that her psoriasis was an occupational disease.
A workers’ comp judge awarded her temporary total disability benefits, vocational rehabilitation and payment of all related medical treatment. The judge found that the employee “suffers from an occupational disease which was either caused or aggravated by her work.”
The company appealed.
During the appeal, a doctor testified that psoriasis is often of unknown origin. The doctor said exposure to certain substances, such as cleaning chemicals, may aggravate existing psoriasis.
The appeals court said the workers’ comp judge failed to make a distinction on whether the disease was caused or aggravated by work conditions.
Since no medical evidence could show that the employee’s psoriasis was caused by exposure at work, the appeals court overturned the award of comp benefits.
The court said comp may be awarded to employees who suffer a psoriasis outbreak at the time when symptoms are active and severe.
Cite: Carrodine v. Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. and Louisiana Tech, Court of Appeals of LA, No. 43,902WCA, 3/11/09.