Penalties – Was Employer’s Conduct Willful, Therefore Triggering a 15% Increase in Disability Compensation?

Petitioner’s duties required him to place print media onto machine’s rollers and ensure that the materials did not become wrinkled during the printing process. To watch the media, he stood on a box and looked through an open center access panel. Petitioner saw a wrinkle and reached into the printer to flatten it. Before he could remove his left hand, the printer’s support bar briefly trapped his hand and a portion of the printer head scraped across it, tearing his skin and causing his hand to bleed. He reported the injury but declined medical treatment. The next month, petitioner was terminated for an unrelated time clock violation. Petitioner then reported to the Utah Occupational Safety and Health Division claiming that the manager removed the printer’s safety sensor. An inspector agreed. Petitioner filed an Application for Hearing (AFH) requesting a 15% increase in disability compensation.

A “willful failure” is that the deliberate defiance of a reasonable rule laid down to prevent serious bodily harm to the employee will usually be held to constitute willful misconduct, in the absence of a showing of … specific excuses …. if the employee had some plausible purpose to explain his violation of a rule, the defenses of violation of safety rules or willful misconduct are inapplicable, even though the judgment of the employee might have been faulty or his conduct rash ….

The Commission reasonably concluded that employer did not deliberately disable or bypass safeguards on the printing machine. It concluded that the employer’s explanation that the manager had not overridden the safety sensor at the time of the accident, and the manager did not direct employees to override the safety sensor of the printing machine was sufficient to show that there was no deliberate defiance of the reasonable rule.

Rojas v. Labor Commission, 407 P.3d 1092 (Utah App 2017)

Would you like to know more? Contact Christine Bechmann at or Rachel Konishi at 877-259-5693.


From the May 2019 Newsletter