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Whataburger, a beloved fast-food chain with a robust presence in Texas, is well known for its tasty burgers and distinct orange-and-white striped rooftops. However, less known is its status as a non-subscriber to the Texas worker’s compensation system. This status can have significant implications for employees injured on the job, as traditional workers’ compensation insurance does not cover them.

Instead, Whataburger handles injury claims through alternative means, which can often lead into complex legal territories, as demonstrated below in the case of Yvonne Cardwell vs. Whataburger Restaurants LLC.

Understanding Non-Subscriber Status

In Texas, companies have the choice to subscribe to state workers’ compensation insurance or opt out, becoming non-subscribers. Whataburger chooses the latter. This means that while they may provide some form of injury compensation, it is not regulated under the same statutes governing standard workers’ compensation claims.

This has profound implications for employees, as it alters the way claims are handled and what benefits might be available following workplace injuries.

Common Injuries Working at Whataburger

Working in fast-food restaurants like Whataburger involves a variety of tasks that, while seemingly straightforward, can lead to various workplace injuries. Employees at Whataburger are susceptible to a range of common injuries, primarily due to the fast-paced and often hectic nature of the food service environment. Here are some of the typical injuries that can occur:

  1. Burns: One of the most common injuries at fast-food restaurants are burns. Employees frequently handle hot oils, grills, and other cooking equipment that can cause significant burn injuries if not handled with proper care or if accidents occur.
  2. Slips, Trips, and Falls: Spilled liquids, food products, and hurried movements create a prime environment for slips and falls. These incidents can lead to bruises, sprains, or even more serious injuries like fractures or head trauma.
  3. Cuts and Lacerations: With the frequent use of knives and other sharp instruments in the kitchen, cuts are common. These injuries can range from minor to severe, depending on the incident and the tools involved.
  4. Repetitive Strain Injuries: Employees who perform repetitive tasks, such as assembling burgers, operating registers, or preparing sides, can develop repetitive strain injuries. These are less acute but can lead to long-term health issues like carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis.
  5. Musculoskeletal Injuries: Lifting heavy boxes, prolonged standing, and performing awkward movements can lead to back injuries or other musculoskeletal strains. Proper ergonomics and regular breaks can help mitigate these risks.

Whataburger, like all employers, is responsible for ensuring a safe working environment. This includes providing adequate training, appropriate personal protective equipment, and clear safety protocols to minimize the risk of these common injuries. Employees should also be proactive in following safety guidelines and reporting potential hazards to prevent accidents.

Case Study: Cardwell vs. Whataburger Restaurants LLC

In the Cardwell vs. Whataburger Restaurants LLC case, Yvonne Cardwell, a Whataburger employee, challenged the fairness of an arbitration agreement after sustaining a workplace injury. She claimed the agreement was unconscionable, meaning unfairly one-sided and implemented under misleading conditions.

The trial court initially ruled in favor of Cardwell, but the decision was appealed by Whataburger. The appellate court found that further examination was necessary, particularly to explore whether the arbitration agreement was “illusory” – lacking mutual obligation and possibly invalid. The case was remanded back to the trial court to address these issues comprehensively.

This case highlights the complexities and importance of ensuring that arbitration agreements are transparent and equitable for all parties involved.

Your Rights as a Whataburger Employee

As an employee at Whataburger, understanding your rights is crucial for navigating workplace incidents and ensuring your safety and fair treatment. Despite Whataburger’s status as a non-subscriber to the Texas workers’ compensation system, you still possess significant rights under state and federal law.

Right to a Safe Work Environment

  • OSHA Standards: Under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), you are entitled to a safe working environment. This means Whataburger is required to adhere to all safety standards, which include providing proper training, equipment, and maintenance of a hazard-free workplace.

Right to Report Injuries Without Retaliation

  • Injury Reporting: You have the right to report any work-related injuries or illnesses without fear of retaliation from Whataburger. This includes being demoted, dismissed, or discriminated against because of injury reporting.

Right to Seek Medical Treatment

  • Medical Care: If you are injured on the job, you have the right to seek medical treatment immediately. Whataburger is required to provide adequate first aid on site, and if necessary, allow access to further medical attention.

Right to Fair Compensation

  • Compensation for Injuries: Although Whataburger is a non-subscriber and does not participate in the Texas workers’ compensation system, they may offer an alternative workplace injury benefit plan. You are entitled to understand fully any such plan offered, including how to make claims and what compensation might be available for medical expenses, lost wages, or disability.

Right to Privacy and Dignity

  • Confidentiality and Respect: Your personal medical information related to workplace injuries should be handled confidentially, and you are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect throughout the process of reporting and recovery.
  • Legal Representation: You have the right to seek legal counsel if you believe your injury claims are not being handled appropriately, or if you wish to challenge the compensation offered. An attorney can provide guidance on your rights and help negotiate adequate compensation or navigate potential legal proceedings.

Right to Refuse Unsafe Work

  • Work Refusal: If you believe that your work environment is unsafe and poses an immediate threat to your health or safety, you have the right to refuse to carry out the work without fear of termination or retaliation, provided certain conditions are met.

By being informed about your rights, you can take proactive steps to protect yourself and your interests while working at Whataburger. Always remember that in the face of any confusion or disputes regarding workplace injuries, consulting with legal professionals can provide clarity and support in upholding your rights.

Filing a Worker’s Comp Claim Against Whataburger

Filing a claim for compensation at Whataburger involves several important steps. First, documenting the injury thoroughly and reporting it to management is crucial. The details of the incident, including how and when it occurred, are key elements that will support the claim. Employees should also be aware of any specific forms or documentation that Whataburger requires as part of their internal procedures.

For detailed guidance on navigating the complexities of filing a Whataburger workers’ comp claim, consider consulting with experienced professionals. Joe I. Zaid & Associates offer specialized legal assistance that can make a significant difference in the outcome of your claim.

Steps to Take if Injured While Working at Whataburger

If you are an employee injured while working at Whataburger, taking the right steps immediately following the incident can greatly impact the outcome of your claim. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Report the Injury: Inform your manager or supervisor about the injury as soon as possible. Document the incident in detail.
  2. Seek Medical Attention: Prioritize your health and seek medical attention immediately. This also provides medical records that serve as evidence for your claim.
  3. Review Company Policy: Understand the specific details of Whataburger’s injury and arbitration policy as outlined in the employee handbook.
  4. Document Everything: Keep records of all related expenses and correspondence about your injury and treatment.
  5. Consult a Legal Professional: Consider consulting with an attorney who specializes in worker’s compensation claims against non-subscriber employers to explore your legal options and ensure your rights are protected.


Navigating a worker’s compensation claim against a non-subscriber like Whataburger can be daunting. The legal complexities and the potential for arbitration stipulated in employment agreements make it essential for employees to be well-informed about their rights and the procedures in place. The case of Cardwell vs. Whataburger serves as a significant example of why understanding these aspects is crucial and highlights the importance of having competent legal guidance.

Whataburger employees should be proactive in educating themselves about the company’s policies on workplace injuries and should not hesitate to seek legal support when needed. With the right steps and knowledgeable assistance, employees can effectively manage and assert their claims, ensuring they receive the compensation and care they deserve following workplace injuries.

For further guidance on Whataburger worker’s compensation claims and to ensure your rights are fully protected, consider reaching out to a skilled attorney who understands the complexity of non-subscriber claims in Texas.

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