The Workers’ Compensation Commission got tough on a job-seeker this week, cutting off benefits for a route salesman it said had not looked hard enough for work.
Delivery driver Dennis Nail was partially disabled due to injuries to his head, neck and shoulders. Work restrictions prevented him from lifting more than 20 pounds. He began looking for work in Winchester in early 2012, which at that time, had an unemployment rate hovering around 6 percent.
Of the 45 employers Nail contacted, 38 were not hiring and the other seven had no light-duty employment, according to the commission’s March 19 opinion. The commission majority faulted Nail for spending his time contacting employers who were not hiring.
Nail may have hit commission guidelines’ numerical mark for employer contacts, but the guidelines also say a claimant should have a reasonable basis to believe there might be a job available that a claimant could perform.
“This is not the type of job search one would expect someone to perform who was sincerely interested in obtaining employment,” wrote Commissioner Roger Williams for the majority in Nail v. Coyne Textile Services.
Commissioner Wesley Marshall dissented. He said Nail had reviewed job ads, contacted his pre-injury employer and documented his job search. Many of his job contacts were with prior customers where he made job deliveries before his injury.
The claimant was not required to “prescreen contacts or know for certain of the availability of a suitable job,” Marshall said.