Watson v. Cass County, 010912 MNWC, WC11-5296

Docket Nº:WC11-5296
Case Date:January 09, 2012
SALLY A. WATSON, Employee,
No. WC11-5296
Minnesota Workers Compensation
Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals
January 9, 2012
         HEADNOTES          TEMPORARY PARTIAL DISABILITY - SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE; JOB SEARCH. A job search is not required for an award of temporary partial disability benefits, but the nature and extent of any job search is evidence which the compensation judge may consider in determining the employee’s earning capacity. The compensation judge did not err by awarding temporary partial disability benefits where the employee was working full time and cooperating with rehabilitation services.          Affirmed.           John P. Bailey, Bailey Law Office, Bemidji, MN, for the Respondent.           Timothy P. Jung, Lind, Jensen, Sullivan & Peterson, Minneapolis, MN, for the Appellant.           Determined by: Milun, C.J., Wilson, J., and Pederson, J.           Compensation Judge: James F. Cannon           OPINION           PATRICIA J. MILUN, Judge          The self-insured employer appeals from the compensation judge’s determination that the employee is entitled to temporary partial disability benefits. We affirm.          BACKGROUND          On December 15, 2006, Sally A. Watson, the employee, sustained a work-related back injury while working as a corrections officer for Cass County, the employer, which was self-insured for workers’ compensation liability. The employer paid various workers’ compensation benefits, including medical expenses, rehabilitation benefits, and temporary total disability benefits from December 17, 2006, through December 13, 2008. The employer did not have light-duty work available for the employee that could accommodate the employee’s permanent restrictions.1          The employee began working with QRC Carmen Eberhardt in March 2007. On August 14, 2008, the employee signed a job placement plan and agreement which included a requirement that the employee conduct a job search within a 50-mile radius of her home near Walker, Minnesota. Barriers to employment noted in the rehabilitation records included the rural area where the employee lived and her limited educational and vocational history. At the onset of rehabilitation services, the employee expressed her worries about driving beyond the Walker area to job search. She clearly stated her preference to find a job in the Walker area “as she [did] not wish to drive out of town, especially during the winter.”2          On January 13, 2009, the employee began working as a substance abuse technician full time at First Step, which included driving, chaperoning, and monitoring teens and adults at outpatient chemical dependency programs. At that point, the QRC assessed job placement services with the employee were concluded based on the employee’s full-time job. In a February 2009 rehabilitation report, the QRC recommended closing the rehabilitation file since a rehabilitation conference scheduled for February 10, 2009, was cancelled by the employer and the employee was no longer participating in rehabilitation services. In a March 2009 rehabilitation report, the QRC recommended closing the file or suspending rehabilitation services given the fact that the employee had been working in a full-time position. There is no record of a response by the employer to the QRC after the claims representative withdrew a rehabilitation request in February of 2009. It was the employee’s attorney who requested that the rehabilitation file remain open since the employee was working full time at less than her pre-injury wage but the employer was not paying temporary partial disability benefits. On April 16, 2009, the parties signed a rehabilitation plan amendment to keep the file open for services as requested and where appropriate. On September 24, 2009, the insurer agreed to suspend rehabilitation services for 90 days since the QRC had not been providing active services for several months and the employee was working full time.          From November 17 through December 16, 2009, the employee was laid off and received unemployment benefits while her employer was changing locations. The employee then returned to work part time for First Step at the new location. In January 2010, the parties agreed to another 90-day suspension of rehabilitation services. In April 2010, the employee’s QRC once again recommended closing the employee’s rehabilitation file. Thereafter, the employee stopped working...

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