Workers’ Compensation benefits can be suspended when there is a wage loss due to economic conditions. Recently, the Commonwealth Court affirmed an employer’s petition to suspend wage loss benefits even though the claimant had returned to her pre-injury position with a wage loss.
By way of background, the claimant sustained a work-related injury to her right arm. The claimant then returned to work in her pre-injury position with restrictions. Despite the restrictions, the claimant testified that her job was essentially the same. In the event there was something she could not lift, she would leave it for another staff member. There were some tasks that would require her to call another staff member for assistance.
The claimant was working less hours after her work injury and admitted that, prior to her injury, she worked overtime due to short staffing. After the injury, there were funding cuts, which affected and limited the amount of overtime available.
The employer also presented testimony which essentially corroborated the claimant’s testimony. The WCJ found that the claimant returned to her pre-injury position with reasonable weight restrictions and the claimant’s residual impairment no longer affected her loss of earning power.
The Commonwealth Court affirmed and relied on Harle v. WCAB (Telegraph Press, Inc.). Here, the claimant’s wage loss was not related to the work injury, but rather was related to other economic conditions.
What It Means to You
Benefits can be suspended even when the claimant sustains a wage loss after a return to work without the need to rely on similarly situated employees. The court highlighted the fact that the claimant will need to be working a time of injury job within the work restrictions that do not require a modification of his or her duties. This distinction is very important in the analysis of the court.