Wait Staff Face High Rate of Injury on the Job

Working in the food service industry requires a great deal of physical stamina, and our Greensboro workers’ compensation lawyers know there is ample opportunity for injury.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there are approximately 9.5 million workers in America employed in food service. For these individuals, the most common types of injuries include:

  • Sprains, strains, contusions and bruises from slips, falls and trips.
  • Lacerations and cuts from knives and other tools.
  • Heat burns from steam, hot water, hot surfaces and hot oil.
  • Ergonomic hazards resulting from repetitive motion, lifting, bending and pushing.
  • Injuries from workplace violence.
  • Occupational stress due to heavy work loads, prolonged standing and limited breaks for rest.

There is also the potential for injury due to exposure to smoke and chemicals.

The recent case of Pierce v. Colvin, reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, reveals hazards of the job. Although the plaintiff in this case claimed total disability and is attempting to obtain benefits from the Social Security Administration, her on-the-job injuries might nonetheless also qualify her for workers’ compensation benefits as well.

(While it is possible to receive both workers’ compensation and SSDI benefits simultaneously, they can offset each other so it’s important that you speak first with an experienced benefits attorney who can advise you as to the best course of action.)

In the Pierce case, the plaintiff alleges she first injured her back at age 46 while working as a waitress. According to court records, she was moving cases of glassware when she felt a crippling pain in her back.

She soon sought treatment from a doctor, who ordered an MRI. That test revealed signs of disc degeneration. Her pain was so severe, she says, she was unable to return to work and had to quit her job. It’s unclear at this point why she did not seek workers’ compensation benefits.

She subsequently received a series of electric shock and chiropractic treatments for her back and was also prescribed pain medication. Her doctor indicated she would not be able to lift more than 40 pounds.

After several months, she said she felt well enough to look for more work. She began another job at a small cafe and worked there for several months. However, it wasn’t long before she re-injured her back, again by lifting. She was unable to sit or stand comfortably. She couldn’t sleep well and she had numbness in her legs that caused her to be unable to sit, lift, stand or bend for any length of time. Her five-to-six-hour shifts became unbearably painful. Again, she quit her job.

Her chiropractor advised her not to return to work due to the injury, but she said lacking a retirement plan and too young for disability benefits, she had no choice. She found a morning job as a high school cafeteria cashier. For this job, she could sit, but she was unable to make ends meet with her paycheck from that job. So she began working evenings at a sandwich shop. She was fired, however, after her back pain caused her too call in sick too many times.

It was around this time that she sought SSDI benefits. She was initially denied, but after numerous appeals, the Seventh Circuit found the administrative law judge’s findings flawed and ordered the case remanded for further consideration.

For other food industry workers, it’s imperative to immediately report and seek medical treatment any on-the-job injuries as soon as they occur. If you have questions about whether your injury is compensable under North Carolina law, call us today.

If you have been injured at work in Greensboro, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Pierce v. Colvin, Jan. 13, 2014, U.S. Court of Appeals for Seventh cuit

More Blog Entries
Change of Condition in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Claim May Warrant Benefit Modification, Jan. 18, 2014, Greensboro Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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