In April 2009, claimant injured her neck and back during the course of her employment as a pharmacy technician. In addition, it was determined claimant’s injury resulted in anxiety and depression issues. After reaching maximum medical improvement for her work injuries, claimant was able to return to her employment as a pharmacy technician under permanent restrictions of working no more than 30 hours per week. Prior to the accident, claimant was a full-time employee, routinely working 40 hours per week. Claimant argued that she was permanently and totally disabled based on the assertion she would not have been able to return to work but for accommodations provided by defendant. The Commission found claimant had suffered a 70% loss of future earning capacity as a result of the injury.
Claimant appealed the Commission’s finding, arguing the Deputy and Commissioner had improperly made a “downward adjustment” based on defendant’s accommodation of claimant’s permanent work restrictions. The Iowa Court of Appeals agreed with claimant’s assertion that “an injured worker’s performance of accommodated work, in and of itself, ma[y] not be used to reduce a worker’s industrial disability rating.” However, the court disagreed with claimant’s assertion that the Commission misinterpreted the law. In reaching this conclusion, the Court noted the Commission properly based the award on the factual conclusions that: (1) claimant was a valuable member of the pharmacy team; (2) claimant had developed unique skills; and (3) claimant would probably find employment, even with her restrictions, should she leave Hy-Vee. Wherefore, the commission’s industrial disability finding was affirmed.
Norton v. Hy-Vee, No. 16-1299 (Iowa Ct. App. Nov 8, 2017).