Brian Brehmer, no stranger to being injured in the workplace, again descends into bureaucratic hell in order to make a compensation claim.
This past February, Talking Soup published one of my retail tales regarding what happens when you get hurt at work, in which I looked at the ups and downs of dealing not only with the injury but in dealing with the circles of hell into which you need to descend in order to get things dealt with in a quick and proper manner.
Earlier in July, I had the misfortune of injuring my back at work and once again went down the rabbit hole of phone calls, emails, text messages, and appointments which once more reminded me of the thrills and chills of working in retail.
It was a Wednesday and I was working in the stock room, unloading cases of water and juices, something that I had done a million times over the years, and will eventually do another million times. I lifted my 11th case of nursery water and felt two distinct pains in my lower back: one which felt as if I had been sucker punched while the other felt as if I had just hit my funny bone.
I knew something was wrong and so I did the right thing; I dialled the number for the work related injury claims and began my trip down Alice’s rabbit hole, only her trip was much more enjoyable and there was a giant rabbit to deal with at the end.
I called the number and spoke to a woman about what happened. This is how that first conversations went:
Hello, this is Becky (not her real name). How may I assist you today?
This is Brian Brehmer, and I am reporting a work related injury.
Were you hurt at work?
Yes, I was just injured and that is why I am calling you to report it.
So, were you the one hurt at work or are you reporting for someone else?
Okay, I should have known that things were not going to get much better after this introductory exchange, but I needed to report this claim so that I could be seen and taken care of by a medical professional if necessary.
Yes, I am calling for myself.
May I have your name and ID number and the store number and the address and phone number and any witnesses to the accident. I will also need your mother’s maiden name and your grandmother’s recipe for peach cobbler.
So I gave her all the information and then some, only to be told the following:
Well, I am just a receptionist, let me get you someone who can assist you with your claim.
So I am put on hold and soon another voice appears on the line.
Hi, this is Rosemarie (again, not her real name) how may I assist you today?
This is Brian Brehmer and I am reporting a workman’s comp claim.
Were you hurt at work?
Yes I was hurt at work, that is why I am calling.
Okay, I will need some information.
For the next 72 minutes, I told this woman everything related to the incident as well as my favorite Beatles song (Norwegian Wood), the best Rolling Stones album (Sticky Fingers) and one of my favorite movies (Jaws). After each piece of information she would reply,
Thank you for sharing that…
So when the call was finished, I was told that I needed to see a doctor, which I did. I received a quick once over and was sent back to work with a note giving me a few days off and with two prescriptions to take. It sounds simple enough but then again, it’s retail, so you know that it is not going to be that easy.
The very next day, I got a phone call from a man who said that he was in charge of my claim and that he had a few questions for me, and then proceeded to ask me all the same questions and get all the same answers that I had given the previous two individuals. He finished his call by saying that he had emailed me some information that I needed to deal with and that if anything changed that he would be in touch with me, and if something changed on my end, I should contact him. Again, sounds easy enough, but if it was that easy, I would not be writing this piece.
So I contacted him and let him know that I had gone to see my primary care physician and that he was encouraging me to see an occupational therapist. I heard nothing back from Bob (not his name). I emailed him telling him everything that I had heard and was told by my doctor; and still heard nothing.
I returned to work a week later and got a phone call from a woman who said that she was in charge of my claim and that she had a few questions for me seeing that there was no information regarding anything that may or may not have happened to me at work.
It was at this point that I realised that ALL MY PHONE CALLS AND EMAILS AND CONVERSATIONS HAD FALLEN ON DEAF EARS.
So I tried to call her at the number that she had given me and got a 3-minute lead up to her voice mail. So I left her a voicemail with the information that I had. Nothing. So I tried throughout the day to reach her. Ten calls and ten voicemails later; nada.
I called the WC number and told them what had happened. They directed me to call another number which I did. This resulted in my being transferred to a third number which happened to be the voicemail of the woman that I was trying to get in touch with the past few days.
She left me an email and said that she had no information and that I needed to have the papers faxed to her, which I had my boss do for me. And then I waited.
Now during this time, I got phone calls from my doctor and from the OT people both of which yelled at me for not seeking occupational therapy for my injury. I told them that I needed to wait for the claims woman to get back to me before I could do anything, which was met with introductory classes by the two of them in state law and patients’ rights and anything else they wanted to tell me over the phone.
So once more, I contacted the woman who was in charge of my claim and was on hold for over 2 hours before getting to speak to someone. They had not received any of the faxes. Could I fax them again?
Finally, my phone rang and the woman asked me if I had time for a recorded 20 minute call which would detail all of the information that I had available concerning my injury.
I went into the break room for some quiet and began the call. I should have known that the break room was not going to be quiet, because everyone who ever worked for the company decided that they needed to come back and eat or microwave something or make a call or two at full volume with me on the phone.
The phone call went something like this:
I am advising you that this call is being recorded, do you understand?
Okay, tell me about the time and day and location of the incident. What happened? How did it happen? Why did it happen? When did it happen? To whom did it happen?
After re-answering all of these questions, she had a ton of unrelated questions for me. She wanted to know my hobbies and interests; whether or not I drank or smoked or did anything reckless. The phone call resembled more of a dating profile questionnaire than it did official business. After 40+ minutes the phone call was over and I was told to see the doctor and email her with any details.
Soon after the phone call ended, I received an email that must have been several pages long, that stated what was required of me by law and what my rights were and how I would be punished if I did not respond quickly and accurately to all emails, phone calls and text messages. Now this made me laugh, because I was expected to do the opposite of what they were doing to me if I wanted to get paid.
Now that is another thing that is interesting about this situation. Getting paid. By law, I was supposed to be getting paid for the time that I lost due to the injury as long as it was in writing by a medical professional. Sounds simple, no? No, it can’t be that simple. Which explains this conversation with my claim representative.
So what days were you off work?
I was off the rest of the day that I got hurt which was a Wednesday and then Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday.
Well, I’m not sure that you will get paid for that Wednesday because you worked part of the day.
So, I might not get paid for the day of the injury?
Well, you did work that day, so you might not get paid.
So because I worked part of the day which resulted in me getting hurt, I might not get paid for it?
Yes, because you worked on the day that you got hurt, leading up to your getting hurt, you might not get paid for that day.
(THIS RIGHT HERE IS WHY THE WORLD OF RETAIL IS THE MESS THAT IT IS.)
So if I had been off of work that day, and not gotten hurt, then there would be no problems and I would have got paid for the day?
As I write this, I have re-faxed paperwork and emailed the same information in those faxes and await the decision as to when and how and if I will get paid for my injury.
Retail, where nothing makes sense ever, so don’t even bother trying to figure it out.
Cover image courtesy of Thomas Hawk via Flickr