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"The court's reasoning undermines workers' compensation exclusivity, implicates double-recovery by employees, and likely will result in a proliferation of failure-to-accommodate litigation over workplace injuries." The decision is likely to spark additional claims of refusal to provide a reasonable accommodation under the Human Rights Act in cases involving workplace injuries subject to the Workers' Compensation Act.Though the majority determined that such claims under the Human Rights Act entail a different type of damages and serve a different purpose, the primary role of the Workers' Compensation Act is to compensate for workplace injuries, including lost wages and temporary, partial, and total disability.
The Minnesota Supreme Court recently issued two decisions affecting employers in the state.
In one, the high court overruled a 30-year-old precedent that excluded disabilities covered by the Minnesota Workers' Compensation Act from the disability discrimination provisions of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
The city accepted liability for his work-related injury, and it allowed him to wear special shoes while at work.
Later Daniel reinjured his ankle and suffered a shoulder injury.
Notably, the majority's decision did not reflect the compromise struck by the legislature when it abolished certain common law defenses to such claims in exchange for the certainty and exclusivity of the injury compensation and wage loss schedules in the Workers' Compensation Act.
This ruling is likely to double recovery in some cases.
In the other, the court held that the Minnesota Human Rights Act does not require that employers engage in an interactive process when considering reasonable accommodations for an employee with a disability.
The Minnesota Workers' Compensation Act, like nearly all similar statutes, includes an exclusivity provision.
Rather, the statute serves the purposes of redressing discrimination in the workplace "as well as the loss of a fair employment opportunity because of the alleged failure to accommodate his physical disability." These "are alleged injuries distinct from the ankle injury suffered by Daniel many months before the dispute over accommodation arose." Justice Paul Holden Anderson dissented.
He stands by the court's precedent in which relies on three principles that are central to the operation of the workers' compensation system.