IOWA – TERMINATION & TTD MEMO – 2016
In Iowa, when an injury results in more than three calendar days of disability, the employee may be entitled to TTD benefits beginning on the fourth day and continuing until the employee has returned to work or is medically capable of returning to substantially similar employment, whichever event occurs first. The three day waiting period is payable when the period of disability exceeds 14 calendar days.
In Iowa, the issue of whether an employee is owed TTD benefits after termination for cause is unsettled. The law centers around whether “suitable work” was offered to the employee and such employee refused. If an employee was offered suitable work and refused it, the employee is not entitled to benefits. Schutjer v. Algona Manor Care Center, 780 N.W.2d 549 (2010). In Schutjer, an employee was on modified duty when a factual dispute arose as to whether she voluntarily quit or was fired from her job as a nurse. The Iowa Supreme Court held that there was a factual dispute as to whether the employee voluntarily quit, but found that Schutjer voluntarily quit. Therefore, she refused suitable work and extinguished the employer’s obligation to pay TTD benefits.
Unfortunately, the Iowa Commission has taken several different stances with regard to this subject: In Woods v. Siemens-Furnas Controls, File Nos. 130382 & 1273249 (Appeal Dec. July 22, 2002), and Edwards v. Weitz Co., File No. 5032285, (Arb. Dec. June 22, 2011) the cases held that the employee’s failure of a drug screen and subsequent termination was not an intentional refusal of suitable work. In Alonzo v. IBP, Inc., File No. 5009878 (Arb. Dec. Oct. 31, 2006), the Commission held that the employer did not meet its burden of proof in showing a refusal of suitable work when the employee was discharged for missing work in order to visit his sick mother. In Phu v. Tension Envelope Corp., File No. 5035804 (Arb. Dec. 7/31/12), the Commission held that that an employee did not refuse suitable work when she struck a co-worker during an “outburst”. And finally, In Laboy v. West Liberty Foods, File No. 5037309 (Arb. Dec. 8/13/12), the Commission held that an employee did not refuse suitable work when the employer terminated him because of his immigration status.
Each of these cases demonstrates that a determination whether the employee refuses suitable work is a fact intensive inquiry which requires a case by case analysis. In most situations, the employer will likely have to continue to pay TTD benefits. However, we recommend contacting us to determine if the employee refused suitable work since it is a fact intensive inquiry and the courts generally have ruled in favor of the employee. As always, please feel free to contact us to discuss this issue or related matters.