NATIONAL PARK COMMUNITY COLLEGE AND PUBLIC EMPLOYEE CLAIMS DIVISION APPELLANTS
MELINDA CASTANEDA APPELLEE
FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO.
H. Montgomery, Public Employee Claims Division, for
Goldberg & Dohan, by: Andy L. Caldwell, for appellee.
W. GRUBER, CHIEF JUDGE.
National Park Community College (NPCC) and the Public
Employee Claims Division appeal the decision of the Arkansas
Workers' Compensation Commission (the Commission)
affirming and adopting the decision of the administrative law
judge (ALJ) awarding appellee Melinda Castaneda benefits
under Arkansas Code Annotated section 11-9-505(a) (Repl.
2012). We affirm.
an employee of NPCC, sustained a compensable right-shoulder
injury on June 5, 2015, during a team-building exercise. In
March 2017, the ALJ held a hearing to determine (1)
additional temporary total-disability benefits or, in the
alternative, permanent partial-disability benefits for her
shoulder injury; (2) wage loss and benefits under Ark. Code
Ann. § 11-9-505(a); (3) vocational rehabilitation; and
(4) attorney's fees.
hearing before the ALJ, Castaneda testified that she began
working full time at NPCC in 2009 or 2010. Her employment was
pursuant to a yearly contract, which she signed in April or
May for the following school year. She was paid throughout
the entire year but worked only during the school year.
Castaneda explained that she was an assistant to three
instructors. Her job duties included taking attendance,
grading papers, and substitute teaching. Castaneda explained
that when she met with her supervisor, Jason Hudnell, in
April or May 2015 to renew her contract for the 2015-2016
school year, he informed her that her job would be
discontinued after the 2015-2016 school year due to finances.
injured her shoulder on June 5, 2015, and was off the
following two months for the summer break. She started back
to work in August or September 2015 and worked until
September 28, 2015, when Dr. Rudder performed surgery to
repair her torn rotator cuff. Castaneda continued to see Dr.
Rudder and had physical therapy for eight months until he
released her in May 2016; she contacted Wanda Holden in human
resources after each visit to Dr. Rudder to apprise NPCC of
her situation. Castaneda testified that she was no longer
employed by NPCC by the time she was released to work. She
explained that she received an email on a Thursday stating
that if she did not return to work by 8:00 a.m. the next
morning, she would not have a job. Castaneda called Holden on
Monday morning to inform Holden that Dr. Rudder had not
released her to work. Castaneda testified that when she
called Holden, Holden told her that her FMLA leave had run
out and that she should have reported to her job in a timely
manner. Castaneda also received a termination letter in the
mail dated March 29, 2016, stating she would be terminated as
of April 1, 2016. The termination letter also requested her
to repay insurance premiums paid on her behalf while she was
emails sent to Castaneda by Janet Brewer, associate
vice-president of human resources for NPCC, were introduced
into evidence. The first, sent March 17, 2016, provided in
Your doctor released you to come back to work on March 15 as
stated below. You have been under the Family Medical Leave
during this time. You are entitled to 12 weeks in a calendar
year. You have used approximately 10 weeks of that time. If
you wish to remain under FMLA for the remaining two weeks,
then you must provide an updated certificate.
second email, sent March 29, 2016, provided in part:
You have used your 12 weeks of FMLA for the calendar year
2016. After visiting with Jason [Hudnell], it is necessary
that this position be covered for the remainder of the year
and the need has become critical. Since you are unable to
return to work, we will need to replace your position. Your
employment will be terminated effective Friday, April 1,
received workers'-compensation benefits after she was
terminated until she was released by Dr. Rudder on May 18,
2016. Castaneda testified that when she was released to work,
NPCC had employment available within her restrictions but she
was not offered employment. She testified that she did not
contact NPCC about returning to work when she was released or
apply for other jobs at NPCC. She stated that her job was not
phased out and that someone was still doing the job that she
had performed. Castaneda testified that she wanted to return
Brewer testified about the two emails she sent Castaneda.
Brewer acknowledged that they did not offer Castaneda any
work following her release in May 2016, explaining that she
was no longer employed with NPCC and that they do not
typically call people to return to work who have already been
terminated. Brewer indicated that Castaneda was aware when
she signed her contract in April or May 2015 that it would be
her last year of employment in that position. She stated that
positions occasionally come open during the ...