Utah Workers Compensation Exclusive Remedy Provision
The workers' compensation system constitutes a quid pro quo between employers and employees. See Hunsaker v. State, 870 P.2d 893, 899 (Utah 1993).
Under the Act's balancing of rights, "employees are able to recover for job-related injuries without showing fault . . . and employers are protected from tort suits by employees," id., by virtue of the Act's exclusive remedy provision.
Lest this careful balance of rights should tip too heavily in the employer's favor, the exclusive remedy provision must not be applied outside the coverage formula of the Act.
It is well settled that the Act covers only mental and physical injuries sustained on the job. See Mounteer v. Utah Power & Light Co., 823 P.2d 1055, 1057 (Utah 1991);
see also Retherford v. AT&T Communications, 844 P.2d 949, 965 (Utah 1992).
Accordingly, we have held that the exclusive remedy provision bars common-law tort actions requiring proof of physical or mental injury. See Mounteer, 823 P.2d at 1056-58 (barring a claim for emotional distress while permitting a slander claim because slander does not require proof of mental or physical injury).
Furthermore, the exclusive remedy provision extends far enough to bar what are essentially tort claims masquerading as breach of contract claims. See 6 Arthur Larson & Lex K. Larson, Larson's Workers' Compensation Law 100.039, at 100-19 to -21 (2000) ("The all-inclusive character of the exclusiveness principle results in barring actions for covered injuries even though the plaintiff casts his or her action in the form of a breach of some kind of contract.");
see also Hurd v. Monsanto Co., 908 F. Supp. 604, 611 (S.D. Ind. 1995); Beauchamp v. Dow Chem. Co., 427 Mich. 1, 398 N.W.2d 882, 894 (Mich. 1986), superseded in other respects by statute as stated in Shipman v. Fontaine Truck Equip. Co., 184 Mich. App. 706, 459 N.W.2d 30, 34 (Mich. Ct. App. 1990); Hornsby v. Southland Corp., 487 A.2d 1069, 1071-72 (R.I. 1985). Under such circumstances, the Mounteer analysis cited above still applies to prevent employees from evading the recovery restrictions of the Act.