• September 23, 2013

Icy PlantMinnesotans all know that we stand on the edge of a slippery precipice around this time of year.  We are on the icy threshold of the Minnesota winter, which, by the standards of the United States of America as a whole (along with about 95% of the rest of the world human population) is an unspeakably horrible bout with intolerable if not outright dangerous cold weather.

And so come the slip’n’falls. It’s not just the broken baby food jar in aisle 5.  It’s the real deal, the slick black ice on sidewalks and parking lots.  Or maybe it is not always the real deal?

Angela Schaefer worked at Biolife Plasma until she was terminated in December, 2010 for falsifying an injury report.

Schaefer reported that she slipped (but did not fall) during a break in the parking lot.  The video surveillance suggested otherwise.  (That is, it suggested nothing.)

So when Schaefer made her workers’ compensation claim, it was denied and she was fired.  She was fired, she argues in U.S. district court (D. Minn.) for making a workers’ compensation claim, not for lying about a non-existent accident.

In her retaliation claim, in which she is represented by Arlo Vande Vegt (plaintiff’s counsel in this previously reported case), U.S. District Court Judge John R. Tunheim (D. Minn.) has denied Biolife’s motion for summary judgment.

[A] reasonable jury could find that the investigation’s conclusion that the video surveillance would have shown any fall that occurred was faulty. In addition, as part of its investigation, no one at BioLife ever contacted Schaefer’s physician to see if her injuries were consistent with her mechanism of injury…Permitting termination of an employee on the grounds that a flawed investigation demonstrates a reasonable belief of claim falsification provides an employer with the incentive to do a poor investigation… Taking all of the facts in the light most favorable to Schaefer, the Court finds that there is a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether BioLife’s stated reason for termination, its belief that Schaefer falsified her claim, was unworthy of credence and, therefore, whether BioLife’s reason for terminating Schaefer was pretextual.

 

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