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Federal court says preapproval for medical treatment illegal

Illinois workers, according to a recent federal court decision, have the right to seek medical treatment for work-related injuries without asking for approval. While the company might appeal the decision, the court said giving the company advance notice would not help them maintain safety in the workplace. In addition, the argument that this pretreatment notification would provide helpful information would be better served afterward, the judge said.

The case involved FedEx policy relating to the process a worker follows when injured. An Illinois U.S. district court judge heard the case of a package handler who was fired because he reportedly failed to notify FedEx of his intentions to seek treatment for a back injury he suffered at work. After the injury, his supervisor allowed him to do light duty. The man saw a physician's assistant to examine his back and obtained a permission slip for continued light duty pending a complete evaluation. According to court records, the package handler was fired when he returned with the note. FedEx allegedly maintained that he broke company policy.

The company said there is a system in place to allow a worker to provide notification that they are seeking medical care via a phone call. This precondition, according to the judge, might make the worker anxious and fear termination. The judge further insisted that interference with seeking medical care is in opposition of the Illinois workers' compensation statute.

The court's decision was based on a worker's right to medical treatment. In a similar situation, an attorney may be able to assist a client in ensuring that their rights as a worker are upheld.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Judge Upbraids FedEx Over Work Injury Rules", Jack Bouboushian, September 25, 2014

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