UPDATES & ANALYSIS

3.02

Working in Des Moines Doesn’t Suit Illinois Truck Driver

by Ryan Koopmans | March 2, 2012

By Ryan Koopmans

Today the Iowa Supreme court upheld the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner’s ruling that a temporary light-duty assignment in Des Moines was not “suitable work” for a truck driver who lives nearly 400 miles away in southern Illinois, when the work would decrease the amount of time the truck driver would be able to spend at home with his family. Accordingly, the employee’s refusal to accept the assignment did not disqualify him from receiving workers’ compensation benefits.

The opinion drew a dissent from Justice Mansfield (joined by Chief Justice Cady and Justice Waterman). Justice Mansfield argued that the majority employed “an unduly formalistic approach” and did not properly consider the broader context in which the dispute arose. The trucking company operates “a regular rehabilitation/light-duty work program for its drivers” in Des Moines; owns a motel at which the drivers stay during their rehabilitation; provides on-site physical therapy; and pays for transportation home every other weekend. The driver’s assignment to Des Moines occurred as a part of that program. The dissent argued that “suitable work . . . may require the employee to travel temporarily so long as the work is offered in good faith to meet the needs of the company and the travel is at the employer’s expense.”

The case is Neal v. Annett Holdings, Inc.

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