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Does Leaving The Work Force May Affect My Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

  • Dave Brown, Esquire
  • 11/30/2020

Workers’ Comp PA Lawyer Discusses How Leaving The Work Force May Affect Your Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Pennsylvania

There is nothing more honorable and rewarding for parents than to stay home and take care of their children. We have to caution you, though – according to a recent ruling by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, if you want to collect Pennsylvania workers’ compensation benefits while being a stay-at-home parent, the Judge might say no.

About The Recent Ruling By The PA Commonwealth Court.

In a case recently decided by the PA Commonwealth Court, a man named Thomas Mika was a warehouse worker who injured his shoulder on the job, rendering him disabled. He began to collect PA workers’ comp. benefits. Mr. Mika and his wife made a decision that she would work outside of the home, while he would remain at home and take care of the couple’s children. During proceedings before the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Judge, Mr. Mika testified that he was not looking for work because he was a stay-at-home dad. He noted that his shoulder injury prevented him from doing his warehouse job, and while he was capable of performing a lighter-duty position, he didn’t want to work a minimum wage job which paid him a lot less than his regular job. He also admitted that if he did not have children, he would have tried to find work within his restrictions.

Does An Injured Worker Need To Continue Working To Maintain Workers’ Compensation Benefits In Pennsylvania?

Yes, one of the main principles of workers’ compensation law in Pennsylvania is that injured workers must remain in the work force to maintain their right to benefits. This issue arises sometimes when an older worker is injured at work, starts to collect PA workers’ comp. benefits, and then retires by submitting retirement papers to his or her employer and begins to collect a pension. To continue receiving Pennsylvania workers’ compensation benefits following retirement, a person must show that: (1) The work injury forced him into retirement, and not only can he not perform his regular job due to his injury, he is disabled from performing any work; or (2) If the person is capable of doing some type of work, he must show that he has not voluntarily withdrawn from the entire work force and is open to working within his physical capabilities.

Why Was The Injured Worker No Longer Entitled To Wage Loss Benefits In PA?

In Mr. Mika’s case, the Workers’ Compensation Judge suspended his benefits – as a result, Mr. Mika was no longer entitled to weekly wage loss benefits, although he was entitled to ongoing medical benefits. The Judge concluded that Mr. Mika’s shoulder injury did not force him out of the entire work force; he freely admitted during his testimony that there was work he could do, but he chose not to pursue a job for personal reasons. Mr. Mika’s lawyer appealed this decision to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board, which reversed the Judge’s decision and found that Mr. Mika should not be disqualified from receiving ongoing benefits on the basis that he chose to stay home and take care of his children and not look for work within his restrictions.

Can My Employer Appeal A Judge’s Workers’ Compensation Decision?

Yes. In this example, Mr. Mika’s employer that appealed – to the Commonwealth Court, which is one of Pennsylvania’s appellate courts that issues decisions in workers’ compensation cases and other types of cases throughout the state. The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, comprised of a panel of three Judges, agreed with the Workers’ Compensation Judge and ruled in favor of the employer that Mr. Mika was no longer entitled to a weekly check because of his choice to care for his children and not look for work. The PA Commonwealth Court relied on previous case law and held that an employer is not required to show that an injured worker does not intend to continue to work. Instead, an employer only has to prove that, although an injured worker may be forced to retire from his time-of-injury job due to his work injury, he is not disabled from other types of work.

Why Was The Injured Workers’ Pennsylvania Wage Loss Benefits Denied?

This decision by the Commonwealth Court in PA is not implying that working is more important than parenting because that’s not the case. Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law is generally favorable to injured workers, but at the same time, it encourages those who are capable of doing some level of work, even if it’s not their regular job, to try to work. So if an injured worker is cleared for light-duty work and the person’s employer offers a light-duty position, the worker cannot simply decline the job because it’s not the kind of work that he has done in the past, or – as Mr. Mika found out the hard way – he would prefer to stay home and take care of his children.

Pearson Koutcher Law | Philadelphia Workers Comp Lawyers

If you find yourself in the same or similar situation as Mr. Mika – we urge you to call the firm of Pearson Koutcher Law. Workers’ comp. is all we do, 100% of the time; our experienced workers’ compensation lawyers have handled thousands of cases for injured workers, and we would be honored to represent you in your claim. So if your work injury prevents you from doing your regular job but you think you can do a light-duty job and you’re not sure what to do – or if you have recently injured yourself and you’re overwhelmed by your pain and having to deal with the insurance company — please call us for a free, comprehensive consultation. We will answer all of your questions, and if necessary, file a petition on your behalf, or defend against a petition filed by the insurance company. Our goal is to make sure that your rights are fully protected.