Why a Milton teacher could be fired in connection with a workplace injury

Trish Van Vliet strums the guitar as she contemplates her situation on Oct. 8, 2020. The Milton school teacher is facing termination for not being able to give the school a return to work date due to multiple surgeries and recovery time needed after an injury at school. She slipped on a puddle around a dehumidifier in the school hallway and injured her hip. She is awaiting a fourth and fifth surgery, including hip reconstruction. If she is terminated, she loses health insurance for herself and her three children.

A Milton third grade teacher who was injured in the workplace could be fired from her job for being unable to return to work while awaiting surgeries and recovery.

Trish Van Vliet is fighting for her job in advance of a school board meeting Oct. 19, where her employment will be decided.

The 39-year-old is experiencing extreme pain and limited mobility after injuring her hip falling in a dehumidifier puddle in the school hallway in 2018. She has two upcoming surgeries, but is unsure when they will happen or how long recovery will be, and therefore cannot give the school district a date for which she can return to work.

A loss of job would mean losing health insurance for herself and her three children. Worker’s compensation benefits barely exceed what it would cost her to purchase COBRA health insurance. And the teacher’s union, which she expected to come to her aid, wasn’t able to assist in her case.

Van Vliet believes hers is a cautionary tale to other teachers who may have a false sense of security and says the system unfairly penalizes the person injured.

Subscribers can read the full story here to find out how Trish Van Vliet came to the edge of losing her job at Milton Elementary School — and what a labor lawyer says about it.

Contact April Barton at abarton@freepressmedia.com or 802-660-1854. Follow her on Twitter @aprildbarton.