eNotes: Workers’ Compensation – March 2022 – New Jersey
March 21, 2022
SIGNIFICANT CASE SUMMARY
NJ CASE SUMMARY
In the Matter of Thalia Tretsis Middlesex County
Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division
Decided: February 15, 2022
A Functional Capacity Evaluation may be utilized by an employer as grounds for removal from a public position for inability to perform pre-injury job duties.
Ms. Tretsis sustained a knee injury during a slip and fall in an Employer controlled parking lot in March, 2015. Ms. Tretsis was provided with authorized care, and she eventually returned to full duty employment. Following her return to full duty, Ms. Tretsis experienced a worsening of her condition ultimately requiring surgical repair in 2017. Following the surgery, Ms. Tretsis continued to experience pain and decreased function in the knee. Ms. Tretsis was sent to a Functional Capacity Evaluation to assess her ongoing physical limitations. Ms. Tretsis’ working ability were determined to be lifting less than 35 lbs. Ms. Tretsis requested a second opinion, and underwent a second Functional Capacity Evaluation, which confirmed the light duty working restrictions. Ms. Tretsis was released to Maximum Medical Improvement. Ms. Tretsis was released from her pre-injury job for inability to perform her job duties. Outside of the Workers’ Compensation Court, Ms. Tretsis appealed her termination, and the Administrative Law Judge found the Functional Capacity Evaluation was properly performed, and demonstrated ongoing light duty restrictions.
The Appellate Division affirmed Ms. Tretsis’ dismissal based upon the findings in the Functional Capacity Evaluation indicating the N.J.A.C. 2-2.3(a)(3) authorized a public entity to remove an employee for inability to perform the basic functions of the job.
While a Functional Capacity Evaluation may increase the value of an underlying Workers’ Compensation claim, especially when ongoing working restrictions are found, the evaluation serves a greater purpose in determining an employee’s capacity to work and can be relied upon outside the Workers’ Compensation system.
Questions about this case can be directed to Caroline Gentilcore, Esquire, at (908) 528-2600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.