IF A government of Guam employee is injured on the job and a physician certifies that the injury occurred in the workplace, that employee receives worker’s compensation, but the $1,000 monthly stipend is not enough to sustain the employee’s needs, such as paying their bills or a mortgage.
This situation causes not only physical pain, but also creates emotional pain and financial difficulties for the entire family, said Senator Rory Respicio, author of Bill 254, which had its public hearing yesterday. Bill 254, if enacted, would authorize administrative leave for individuals certified by the worker’s compensation program.
“If they are on admin leave, the money is already budgeted which comes from the agency that employee is employed at,” said Respicio. “How do we take care of that employee who’s trying to survive on a $1,000 a month stipend,” questioned the senator.
The lawmaker said a constituent’s current dilemma prompted him to introduce the bill. Respicio said his bill “forces our attention on workman’s compensation and how the Department of Labor is administering the law.”
Respicio said there are those on worker’s compensation who are going through financial difficulties because of a work-related medical condition, and DOL’s worker’s compensation program doesn’t seem to meet the needs of these individuals.
On the verge
Diana Rodriguez is under the worker’s compensation program and is in danger of losing her home. “We’re on the verge of losing our house. We’re on the verge of losing everything,” testified her husband, Jaime Rodriguez. The couple supports the bill.
Mrs. Rodriguez, a Department of Revenue and Taxation employee, acquired a work-related injury in October 2003 at her Tiyan office. She “tripped over a threshold that ran across the entrance to her office.” This threshold was brought up to management’s attention for being a safety hazard, but nothing was done, said her husband, who testified in support of the bill during yesterday’s public hearing.
Mrs. Rodriguez tripped over the threshold which led to numerous neurological problems and surgeries. In April 2004, she had surgery in Hawaii. She returned to work on July 2004, but continued having problems with her legs and arms.
In December 2006, Rev and Tax had since moved to its Barrigada location when Diana noticed that duct tape was used to secure the power lines for a new printer. It was taped “in the hallway in a heavy traffic area.”
“She mentioned to her superiors that having the duct tape running in a heavy traffic area was unsafe for her since she was still experiencing problems with her legs,” her husband testified.
Nothing was done and “Diana tripped over the tape and hit her cheek against a filing cabinet.” The force of the impact loosened the bone implants that had been inserted during her April 2004 surgery.
As a result of this second accident, Diana underwent another spinal surgery in April 2007. In July, she was still experiencing major pain and underwent another surgery in October 2007. And yet again, another spinal surgery was performed in August 2008, said her husband.