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Moldy Workers' Comp Case Doesn't Attract Attorneys

December 08, 1996

Q An insurance company has been giving me problems about a worker's compensation case since learning that my attorney died. The case is 27 years old, and I haven't been able to find an attorney who will take a case that old. What I should do?

--T.C., Anaheim

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A Workers' compensation cases are governed by a one-year statute of limitations. Assuming the claim was filed in a timely manner 27 years ago, it is difficult to believe that the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board has not heard the matter. You should review the case file.

You will have difficulty retaining an attorney to represent you in a matter this old. Any attorney reviewing this case would have to contend with very old evidence, faded memories and witness unavailability. Further, the case would probably not generate enough fees to make it worthwhile.

I suggest you contact the Orange County Bar Assn. and ask for the names of attorneys who specialize in workers' compensation cases. You may also want to look for ads in newspapers and telephone books by lawyers who specialize in workers' compensation cases.

--William H. Hackel III

Employment law attorney

Spray, Gould & Bowers

Craft Suggestions to Fit Job to Family Q My husband and I are planning another child sometime next year and I am willing to consider job sharing, flex hours, or cutting my hours so that I can be home more.

I have worked for my current company for more than seven years, and although it is a "kind" organization, there are no provisions for accommodating families beyond the eight-week maternity leave that is the current policy.

I would like to discuss a more progressive leave or partial leaves with our management, but I am afraid that it may put my job in jeopardy. How should I approach management so that I don't get labeled a troublemaker?

--N.R. Upland

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A You should talk this issue over with your supervisor and/or human resources director immediately. You might want to work out some possible plans beforehand in case they ask you for suggestions.

You have worked for this company for a long time, and if they value your contributions, they should be willing to accommodate you. I can't imagine that anyone in your company would consider you a troublemaker simply because you are asking them to consider ways that you can continue to make contributions to the company while having another child.

--Ron Riggio

Director, Kravis Leadership

Institute

Claremont McKenna College

Fight to Clear Name Could Do More Harm Q I worked in sales for a major corporation for over three years without incident. Nearly a year ago, my manager accused me of using a false signature on an enrollment form and wrote a letter that will stay in my personnel file for one year.

I insisted I was innocent, but was told by the manager and the human resources department there was nothing I could do to prove my innocence. I was also assured that it wouldn't affect my chances for promotion. Well, it now appears it has adversely affected my promotion opportunities.

Is there anything I can do at this point, such as going before an arbitrator or seeking a handwriting analysis? Was there something I could have done at the time of the dispute?

--L.H., Woodland Hills

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A Misrepresentations about you are certainly improper. The problem is proving that the accusations were made intentionally without a proper basis in fact. Your manager may also claim immunity from liability because of a "managerial privilege" to express an opinion to other management personnel and to you about his perceptions on your performance.

Evaluate how reasonable the accusations are. Was there anyone else who had a reason to enter a false signature on an enrollment form? Were the commissions for the enrollment solely going to you? Was it signed on a date that you were working there?

You can certainly take a copy of the enrollment form to your own handwriting expert and do an evaluation, but the company is not required to comply with your request for a handwriting analysis. Your results might help soften the attitude of your supervisors, however.

Evaluate if this in fact has affected your promotion opportunities. Are you better qualified than other candidates who are getting promotions? Review your company's grievance procedure. Is there an internal dispute resolution process that you can use?

Balance your desire to "clear yourself" with the possible antagonism that you may cause your supervisors. Your quest for better job security may backfire.

--Don D. Sessions

Employee rights attorney

Mission Viejo

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If you have a question about an on-the-job situation, please mail it to Shop Talk, Los Angeles Times, P.O. Box 2008, Costa Mesa, CA 92626; dictate it to (714) 966-7873; or, e-mail it to shoptalk@latimes.com. Include your initials and hometown. The Shop Talk column is designed to answer questions of general interest. It should not be construed as legal advice.

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