The Compensation Review Board (CRB) recently reversed a trial Commissioner who had awarded benefits to a claimant who had suffered scars to her shoulder, wrist, and arms following a work related motor vehicle accident. At issue was an interpretation of Connecticut Gen. Statutes Sec. 31 – 308 (c) which provides in relevant part that a workers compensation commissioner may award scarring benefits to any claimant who sustains a permanent significant scar on “the face, head or neck, or any other area of the body which handicaps the employee in obtaining or continuing to work.”
The claimant testified at trial that the scars on her arms were distracting to employees that she was required to train as part of her job. She further testified that customers and representatives of her employer questioned what happened causing a distraction because they focused on her arm rather than the training materials. However, she further testified that not only had her employer continued to give her work, but had actually given her a raise since the date of the accident.
The CRB could not uphold the scarring claim when the sole basis presented by the claimant for a scarring award was her own subjective fear as to the impact that it might have on her employment. It is incumbent upon the claimant to produce evidence at the formal hearing that the scars suffered have hindered her work performance or impeded a job search or limited an identifiable job opportunity. While the CRB’s decision seems to make sense under these facts, query whether there would be a different result if the claimant were employed by a model agency or even a strip club. Under those facts, the claimant’s ability to obtain or continue such work might be impaired.