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Minnesota Supreme Court gives injured workers new options

For the last 30 years, injured workers in Minnesota who were discriminated against after their injury were pretty much out of options once they settled their workers’ compensation claim. A state Supreme Court ruling known as the “Karst” decision barred injured workers from filing claims for discrimination through the Minnesota Human Right Act under the idea that they would be “double-dipping,” or collecting payment twice for the same injury.

That has now changed. A new ruling from the state’s Supreme Court has effectively ended the old rule by a 5-2 decision.

According to employment attorneys, the ruling is very significant, with one attorney stating that “this means hundreds more employees every year will be able to bring disability discrimination claims under the Minnesota Human Rights Act in addition to pursuing remedies under the Workers’ Compensation Act.”

The ruling arose from a lawsuit filed by a former firefighter in Minneapolis. He suffered an on-the-job injury and eventually settled his claim with workers’ compensation for $125,000. However, he was forced into retirement in 2016 because his superiors would not allow him to keep working while wearing physician-prescribed tennis shoes around the station house. The shoes alleviated his condition, while the regulation work boots he was required to wear were too heavy and made his ankle injury worse. The firefighter alleged discrimination because of the lack of disability accommodation, along with damage to his dignity and self-respect and a violation of his civil rights.

This is definitely a new era for injured employees. Those who are able to continue working despite their disabilities no longer need fear that they’ll be barred from seeking justice under the Human Rights Act simply because they exercised their rights to workers’ compensation.