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Workplace law: Company policy may trump workers' comp laws in injury cases

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business newsCan an employer require employees to report their workers compensation injuries more quickly than required under Tennessee law? Yes, says the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in a recent opinion. As always, however, the devil is in the details.


The case involved a female employee in northwest Tennessee who worked for a large corporation as an at-will employee for approximately seven years. In June 2007, the company transferred the employee from her position as a machinist to an assembler position.

The employee quickly began to experience pain in her hands while completing the tasks required of her in her new position. The employee explained she experienced pan akin to “a muscle strain,” in her palms, upper arms, and fingers each time she pressed down on the clutch plates on the assembly machine.

She noted that after she let go of the machine the pain would stop. The employee experienced tightness in her muscles at end of her first day and stiffness in her muscles when she awoke the next morning. These pains continued over the next two weeks. After approximately four weeks on the job, the employee began experiencing numbness and tingling while performing everyday tasks with her hands and arms which she attributed to her tasks at work.

By Aug. 1, 2007, the employee began to suspect she had carpel tunnel syndrome. After doing some Internet research on her own, the employee spoke with a company nurse for the first time about her pain on Aug. 14, 2007.

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Growth in women's share of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) occupations declined to 27% in 2011from a high of 34% in 1990. While women make up nearly half of the workforce, they were 26% of the STEM workforce in 2011.

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