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Exclusive indemnity bars injured workers’ discrimination claims



The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday that exclusivity provisions in the Workers’ Compensation Act barred an injured worker’s claim under the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act that she was wrongfully terminated because of her disability.

Suzette Dutcher worked for the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services. Her position was mostly administrative, but she still interacted with inmates as she mediated disagreements between counselors and inmates, taught classes, and conducted facility briefings as part of her “officer of the day” duties, according to Dutcher v. Nebraska Department of Correctional Servicesfiled in Lincoln.

Dutcher was also required to maintain certification in tactics training for “level 3”

; pressure point control, during which she injured her right knee in April 2015 in what was deemed a compensable injury that required surgery.

Dutcher’s employment was terminated in December 2016 following her alleged failure to find a new position that would accommodate her. In March 2017, her doctor said she had reached maximum medical improvement and was placed on permanent work restrictions.

While Ms. Dutcher received disability benefits and engaged in her vocational rehabilitation plan, she filed a complaint alleging the department had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act.

The department removed the case to federal court, where the ADA claim was dismissed. The remaining NFEPA claim was remanded to state court.

The department then moved for summary judgment based on the exclusivity provisions of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act, and a state judge granted the motion.

The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed, finding that Dutcher’s alleged discrimination under the NFEPA was a claim “arising out of” a knee injury caused by an accident arising out of and in the course of her employment.

WorkCompCentral is a sister magazine to Business Insurance. More stories here.


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