Johnson v. Maine Department of Transportation
October 11, 2017
CategoriesPartial Benefits / Refusal of Employment
Work Accommodation Work Restrictions Work Search
Summary from the Troubh Heisler Attorneys
Mr. Johnson injured his back at work, and after surgery he could not resume has pre-injury job duties, so the DOT accommodated his incapacity and paid him incapacity benefits voluntarily. His doctor then increased his restrictions, which the DOT could not accommodate, so they referred him to the Equal Employment Opportunity Coordinator to look for other suitable jobs. They found a clerical position at the DHHS paying more than Mr. Johnson earned at the DOT, and they offered it to Mr. Johnson. He reviewed the job site and met with the supervisor, but he then declined the job without trying it, partly because he thought it may require more bending and lifting than he could do, and partly because his family had a prior bad experience with DHHS. The position was then filled by someone else through the state's normal hiring process.
A few weeks later Mr. Johnson's doctor endorsed his refusal of the job offer, based on Mr. Johnson’s impression of the job involving a lot of walking and bending. Mr. Johnson found other jobs that paid substantially less than the DHHS job, and he filed a Petition for Review asking the Board to order the DOT to pay him partial benefits accordingly. Pursuant to 39-A MRSA §214, Judge Hirtle denied Mr. Johnson’s claim, finding that DOT made a bona fide offer of reasonable employment which Mr. Johnson refused without good and reasonable cause. Judge Hirtle was not persuaded by Mr. Johnson’s physician’s opinion, and he concluded that the state’s later retraction of the job offer and Mr. Johnson's re-entry into the work force did not end his “period of refusal.”
Mr. Johnson appealed, but the Appellate Division upheld Judge Hirtle’s decision based on prior Maine Supreme Court cases.