Shannon Gilbertson v. Williams Dingmann, LLC, Case No. A16-0895
In Shannon Gilbertson v. Williams Dingmann, LLC, Case No. A16-0895, the Minnesota Supreme Court looked at the issue of whether, under Minnesota Statute § 176.101, subdivision 1(i), an offer to return to work with the same employer was “consistent with” a plan of rehabilitation stating that the employee’s vocational goal was to return to work with a different employer in the same industry.
Gilbertson suffered a low back injury at work. Based on discussions with Gilbertson, her QRC completed an R-2 Rehabilitation Plan that identified Gilbertson’s vocational goals and rehabilitation services. Gilbertson’s QRC checked the option for “[return to work] different employer” as the vocational goal, and added in the QRC Comments”: “Ms. Gilbertson would like to return to her same industry and different employer.” Dingmann offered Gilbertson a funeral director position that became available due to the departure of another director, but after receiving her QRC’s advice, Gilbertson declined Dingmann’s job offer. Dingmann filed a Notice of Intention to Discontinue Gilbertson’s temporary total disability benefits, asserting that it no longer owed TTD benefits because Gilbertson refused a job offer that provided her with “full hours and full wages on light duty work restrictions.” The WCCA concluded that Dingmann was not entitled to discontinue TTD benefits because its job offer was not “consistent with [Gilbertson’s] plan of rehabilitation.”
The Minnesota Supreme Court agreed with the WCCA and concluded that under the plain language of Minnesota Statute § 176.101, subdivision 1(i), an offer to return to work with the same employer is not “consistent with” a rehabilitation plan that stated that the vocational goal was to return to work with a different employer. The Court applied the plain meaning analysis to the statute and concluded that the statute was unambiguous. Furthermore, the Court noted that the parties agreed that Gilbertson would return to a job with a different employer, not with Dingmann. Dingmann had the opportunity to object to the terms of the Rehabilitation Plan, but since it did not, was bound by the terms of that agreement.
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