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Injury cases that prove suffering in silence in the workplace is an antiquated notion

Injury cases that prove suffering in silence in the workplace is an antiquated notion

Ever worked in an office environment? Then you’ve probably suffered one or all of the following:

  • Air-conditioning that’s always on full-blast
  • Loud talkers
  • The constant barrage of emails that have absolutely nothing to do with you
  • The unbearable smell of someone’s lunch that assaults your nostrils daily

Some people are better at handling these and other workplace aggressors, but some aren’t. In America, there’s no such thing as suffering in silence and no workplace mishap is too small not to result in a lawsuit. For these nine-to-fivers, ‘employee rewards and recognition’ takes a slightly different turn.

Intel’s kick off party

Following orders around the office often guarantees fast-tracking your way up the corporate ladder… but not if such orders include booting a colleague with a ‘Kick Me’ sign taped on his back.

In 2013, Filipino Intel employee Harvey Palacio was going about his business when colleagues started kicking him. Confused, he approached one of his co-workers, Randy Lehman, to check if instructions to kick him had indeed been taped on his back. Instead of confirming his suspicion, he dutifully kicked him...three times.

Harvey then asked another colleague, Chris Zeltinger, to save him from the cruel prank. But because Chris was in a playful mood, he decided to join in the fun and kicked Harvey twice.

The ‘kick me’ prank is a classic that will be enjoyed by middle schoolers for years to come. But in a professional environment, such juvenile pranks will neither be condoned nor tolerated. Convinced the bullying was racially motivated, Harvey filed suit against Randy, Chris, and Intel.

For participating in the kick off, Randy and Chris were sued for battery, got fired, and ordered to render 16 hours of community service. Harvey’s lawsuit against his employer didn’t earn him the 'Most Popular' vote at the company party, but at least he got compensated for his pain, sadness, and humiliation.

Work from home at your own risk

Companies that offer work-from-home privileges must be surprised when an employee claims compensation for injuries sustained while working from home. In the case of JC Penney, whose employee, Mary Sandberg, sustained an injury from tripping over her pooch while working from home, not so much.

As part of her job as window treatments and beddings salesperson, Mary goes to appointments to meet with clients and works from home. She keeps fabrics in her car, stores some of the products at home, and occasionally uses her garage as a makeshift warehouse.

One day, she tripped on her dog while carrying fabric samples to her car and fractured her right wrist. She claimed compensation but was initially denied because the Oregon Workers’ Compensation Board deemed her injury unrelated to work.

In Washington, benefits from workers compensation include medical benefits, wage replacement, permanent partial disability, and permanent total disability, among others. Mary’s case was reviewed and she eventually got these and other benefits.

According to the court ruling, the injury resulted from the performance of her job even though her personal property -- her pooch -- played a bit role.

The smell of trouble at the DJ’s booth

Employers, take note: When an employee complains of strong scents, it may be worth investigating whether the complaint is serious (i.e., life-threatening) or it’s just a bunch of jokers pointlessly ganging up on someone’s new cologne.

Detroit radio DJ Erin Weber complained of certain scents at her former workplace. One of the scents was that of a nail polish remover which was spilled in one of the station’s booths. Finding the stench unbearable, she requested to broadcast from a different booth but got denied by her bosses.

In a separate incident, she complained of the strong scent of a colleague’s perfume, which exacerbated the disability she developed caused by the nail polish fumes.

Erin sued the company and got her doctors to testify that her scent allergies were indeed life-threatening, and were caused by the harmful fumes she has inhaled at the station. And because her former managers denied her requests for a toxic fumes-free environment, she was awarded $10 million from the lawsuit.

No one needs to suffer from workplace pranksters who get a kick out of childish post-it messages. If you want to smell the sweet scent of success in your case against workplace aggravators, call personal injury attorneys Buckingham, LaGrandeur & Williams.