The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission has ruled that the “positional risk” injury sustained by a restaurant cashier was work-related.
Cashier Suffers Shoulder Injury
In Winfrey v. Portillo Restaurant Group, the Petitioner worked as a cashier at a fast food restaurant. Her duties included taking customer orders, receiving money, giving change, stocking, sweeping, mopping, and placing labels identifying the soups being served each day on an overhead sign.
In December 2014, the cashier was standing on a three-step ladder while reaching overhead with her left hand to hang a soup label. She then felt her left shoulder “crack like a piece of chalk.” She continued working that day but later felt a “pinch” in her left shoulder as she was handing change to a customer.
Arbitrator Denies Cashier’s Claim
The cashier filed for workers’ compensation benefits from her employer. When the case went to arbitration, the Arbitrator denied the claim, rejecting her petition for medical expenses, Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits, and any Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) settlement.
The Arbitrator ruled that the Petitioner had failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that she had sustained accidental injuries arising out of and in the course of her employment. He also noted inconsistencies in the cashier’s testimony and her delay in receiving medical treatment.
Additionally, the Arbitrator argued that though the act of handing bills to a customer would be in the course of the cashier’s employment, there was still no risk connected with, or incidental to, that employment and the accidental injury. The Arbitrator further found that the Petitioner had failed to prove that any condition of ill-being in the left shoulder was causally connected to her job.
IWCC Finds Accident Was “Work-Related”
Workers’ compensation attorneys for the cashier filed an appeal with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC). The IWCC reversed the Arbitrator’s decision and found that the Petitioner had suffered a work-related accident, relying on the precedent established in McAllister v. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.
In that case, the Illinois Supreme Court found in favor of a restaurant sous chef who hurt his knee when moving from a kneeling to a standing position as he tried to find a misplaced item in a walk-in cooler. In doing so, the Court reversed earlier decisions ruling that McAllister’s injury did not arise out of his employment because simply standing was a risk common to the general public.
There had been no assertion of a safety failure by McAllister’s employer, and the Petitioner said that he did not slip, trip, slide, or suffer trauma. Nevertheless, the Court awarded McAllister workers’ compensation benefits, finding that everyday activities and bodily movements at or near the workplace are compensable if the activity that caused the injury “had its origin in some risks connected with, or incidental to, employment so as to create a causal connection between the employment and the accidental injury.”
Legal analysts at the time noted that the Court’s decision may have put Illinois in line with states that have a “positional risk” standard, under which employees who are “positioned” at work when they suffer pain may be eligible for benefits because they are at work, regardless of the cause.
Applying this standard, the Commission found that reaching overhead to hang the soup label and then performing additional work duties were acts that were clearly within the reasonable expectation of what the cashier may do in the service of the employer.
Nevertheless, though the IWCC concluded that the cashier had sustained a work accident, it still affirmed the Arbitrator’s decision denying additional benefits.
Fighting for Injured Employees in Illinois
Injured employees in Illinois may be eligible to receive certain benefits, but obtaining them can still prove challenging. Often, it may require the assistance of seasoned legal counsel that is fully knowledgeable of the latest developments in the law, the kind of counsel thousands of clients have received from the dedicated workers’ compensation attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers LLC.
With more than $2 billion recovered in verdicts and settlements, GWC is one of the premier Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury law firms in Illinois. For over four decades, our workers’ compensation attorneys have been fighting for employees in nearly every profession who have been injured in practically every type of situation. GWC has the experience, the determination, the resources, and the reputation you need to get you and your family the justice you deserve.
If you have been injured on the job, contact GWC today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a workers’ compensations attorney. You may call our office at (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with a representative at any time.