Supreme Court Clarifies the Rules for Retirement on Workers’ Compensation
June 6, 2013
By Michael W. McGurrin, Esquire
When you’re hurt at work, the last thing you want to do is navigate the Workers’ Compensation process. Too often, employers throw up road blocks trying to limit your benefits. Fortunately, the Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Galfand Berger are here to help.
Part of our job is to make you aware of changes in the law and this article is about an important new development. In the past, a Pennsylvania worker who retired after a work injury may have lost his or her Workers’ Compensation benefits. Employers argued that a worker collecting a pension didn’t deserve Workers’ Compensation because the worker never intended to work again.
All too often, the courts agree with the employers. However, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania recently came out on the side of an injured worker in a new retirement case. The court said that just because someone decided to receive their pension does not mean they wanted to retire.
The facts of this recent Supreme Court decision explain why. In this case, the hurt worker was a police officer who started getting Workers’ Compensation benefits after she was hurt on the job. The injured officer was awarded a pension because she could not return to her job as a police officer. However, she was capable of performing light or modified duty work. The police officer told the court that she took her pension because the employer had eliminated her light-duty position. In addition, the police officer told the court that she registered for work with the Pennsylvania Job Center. In other words, she wanted to work but the employer took away her job!
In reviewing these facts, the Supreme Court agreed that the employer did not prove that injured officer intended to retire from work altogether; she just couldn’t work in her police job and, for this reason, took her pension benefits. The Supreme Court ordered the continuation of her Workers’ Compensation benefits.
This is good news! While the court’s decision does not change the rule that employees who truly remove themselves from the work force may lose their Workers’ Compensation benefits, it does require a more common sense approach in making the determination of what constitutes retirement. It’s important for an injured worker to make an informed decision before applying for pension or retirement benefits (including Social Security Retirement benefits) as this decision can have serious consequences down the road.
If you have been injured at work and are pursuing Workers’ Compensation benefits, contact the work injury attorneys at Galfand Berger. A Workers’ Compensation case can involve complex issues that require informed decisions by you. Our Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers will guide you through the process step-by-step so that you can maintain your eligibility for all benefits due to you under the law and maximize your compensation. Call our Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation law firm today at (800) 222-USWA (8792) to talk to an experienced Galfand Berger attorney or contact us online.