Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Stop Bleeding and Sign Here

When workers compensation was created early in the last century, the deal was that workers would give up the right to sue and employers would compensate workers for any injuries (or illnesses?) suffered on the job, no questions asked. It hasn't worked out to be quite that clean, but that's basically the deal today. And in 49 states, employers are required to provide workers compensation insurance for their employees.

In the 50th state, Texas, employers can go without workers comp, but workers then have the right to sue. Or do they?
Martha McJimsey was pulling brains out of cow carcasses coming down the line at IBP in Amarillo when she split one of her fingers wide open.

But before a nurse would stop the bleeding and stitch her up, McJimsey had to sign a waiver promising not to sue the company now called Tyson Fresh Meats.

It didn't matter that her right hand -- her writing hand -- was dripping blood. A company representative simply put a pen in her left hand and told her to sign.

"You have to sign a waiver every time you get hurt," said McJimsey, who consented to four post-injury waivers during her 25 years at the plant. "The only excuse is if you're completely unconscious."

McJimsey said her union representative assured her not to worry because she was signing the waiver under duress and that should she decide later to sue, it wouldn't stand up in court. To her surprise, the 59-year-old, who has since left the company, later discovered the waiver was valid and she had no legal right to sue.