When the legislature amended the Workers’ Compensation Act in 1995, it added a provision dealing with terminations for “misconduct”. The statute now provides that if temporary total compensation has ceased because the employee returned to work, it may be recommenced under certain circumstances. However, wage loss (TTD) benefits will not recommence if an employee is terminated for misconduct. Minn. Stat. § 176. 10 l (l)(e)(1). Unfortunately, the legislature did not define “misconduct” when it inserted this statutory provision into the Workers’ Compensation Act. The courts have determined that “misconduct” is not the equivalent of a termination “for cause.” The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals has also determined that the definition of misconduct for workers’ compensation proceedings is the same standard used in unemployment cases. Under this standard, misconduct:
. . . is limited to conduct evincing such wilful [sic] or wanton disregard of an employer’s interests as is found in deliberate violations or disregard of standards of behavior which the employer has the right to expect of his employee, or in carelessness or negligence of such degree or recurrence as to manifest equal culpability, wrongful intent or evil design, or to show an intentional and substantial disregard of [the] employer’s interest or of the employee’s duties and obligations to the employer. On the other hand, mere inefficiency, unsatisfactory conduct, failure in good performance as the result of inability or incapacity, inadvertencies or ordinary negligence in isolated instances, or good-faith errors in judgment or discretion are not to be deemed misconduct. Tilseth v. Midwest Lumber Co., 295 Minn. 372, 204 N.W.2d 644 (1973).
Notwithstanding the adoption of this standard, the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals has cautioned against the strict application of re-employment compensation precedence in a workers’ compensation context. In short, the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals determined that unemployment cases are not “meaningful or precedential.” Hughes v. Versa/Northern Iron, 58 W.C.D. 520 (1998).
The biggest reason for termination is a failure to keep the employer notified of your current status.
Keep the employer notified of your return to work status, your restrictions and your ongoing medical treatment. It will avoid problems down the road.