An employee had an injury while working for Tyson Poultry in Arkansas. He was placed under light-duty restrictions by his physician, and Tyson accommodated those restrictions. While on light duty assignment, he got into an argument with his female supervisor and called her a pretty harsh explicative (in cartoon language: f@#* you b&!%#) . The employee was suspended for a few days and, when he returned, he was fired for insubordination and gross misconduct. Tyson cut off the employee’s TTD benefits when he was fired citing Arkansas law which allows an employer to suspend benefits if the worker refuses suitable work that accommodates his injuries. An administrative law judge denied the employee’s claim for further benefits. The Workers’ Compensation Commission reversed the ALJ’s decision, ruling that the employee was entitled to benefits. An appellate court then reversed the Commission, again, denying benefits. The case eventually went to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which held that the employee’s misconduct was just that, and did not constitute a refusal of suitable work. The Court found that after committing the misconduct, the employee returned to work, and it was Tyson’s option to fire him or allow him to continue the light duty assignment, so the employee was entitled to continue receiving TTD benefits for the remainder of the period of disability.

MY TWO CENTS

Although this is an Arkansas case, the applicable law is similar to the law that would be applied in Alabama. As was demonstrated in this case, a good faith argument can certainly be made that TTD should be cut off when an employee is basically trying to get fired. Of course you will need a good set of facts in order to be able to satisfy an Alabama Circuit Court Judge that the employee’s misconduct/insubordination was intentional.