Wednesday, May 26, 2010

‘I’m deaf from customers’ yelling. Now pay me comp!’

‘I’m deaf from customers’ yelling. Now pay me comp!’

Can an employee, who lost her hearing, get workers’ comp because she was yelled at by customers?

If the employee can prove the yelling caused her hearing loss, a court said.

What happened?

For 18 years a female employee of National Fuel spent parts of a typical workday on the phone with customers who were angry.

Two years after she retired she filed a workers’ comp claim that said she’d suffered occupational hearing loss from long-term exposure to noise (yelling customers).

Who won?

The ex-employee won in front of a Workers’ Compensation Board — but that ruling was later overturned on appeal from the employer.

The appeals court said she hadn’t spent all eight hours of her day on the phone exposed to 80 to 90 decibels of noise.

And her description of the actual noise level was too vague and imprecise to establish that it caused her hearing loss, the court said.

Result: She was not awarded comp benefits — but would’ve been if she could’ve proven her hearing loss was a direct result of her job duties.

Cite: Zahm v. National Fuel.