Pennsylvania's WCAB Reaffirms the Validity of Funded Employment for Injured Workers
In a case handled by Post & Schell, the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB) recently re-affirmed that an employer may offer funded employment in order to bring an injured claimant back to work and reduce his or her disability following a work-related injury, as well as to defend against a Reinstatement Petition filed by an injured claimant. The Appeal Board’s Opinion in Shopf v. Dart Container Corp. of Pennsylvania is available here.
In Shopf, the claimant sustained a work-related injury, which was accepted by the employer. The claimant had returned to work without a wage loss approximately one year after the work injury and his wage loss benefits were suspended. Several months later, the claimant filed a Reinstatement Petition, alleging that he was totally disabled. In opposition to that Petition, the employer presented medical evidence that the claimant was able to perform modified-duty work as well as vocational evidence that a sedentary duty job within the claimant’s restrictions was available to him via a funded employment position. Specifically, the evidence demonstrated that Catalyst RTW, a company specializing in home-based return to work programs, works with employers and insurers to place injured workers into jobs (which are 100% funded by the employer). In particular, Catalyst RTW places injured workers with companies, such as All Facilities, for which the workers make survey calls from their home to businesses in order to obtain information that All Facilities’ customers can use to then make sales calls. The Workers’ Compensation Judge credited the employer’s medical and vocational evidence and granted the Reinstatement Petition, in part, but modified the wage loss benefits based upon the offered funded employment position.
Before the Appeal Board, the claimant argued that the Judge’s decision to modify his wage loss benefits based upon the offered funded employment ignores and goes against the humanitarian purposes of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act because the job was merely offered as a litigation strategy and not to help the claimant in any way. The Appeal Board rejected claimant’s argument. In particular, the Appeal Board noted that the “Claimant presented no evidence that Catalyst is not a legitimate business that locates job opportunities for injured workers.” The Appeal Board further noted that the Commonwealth Court, in Sladisky v. Workers’ Comp. Appeal Bd. (Allegheny Ludlum Corp.), 44 A.3d 98, 103 (Pa. 2012), appeal denied, 56 A.3d 398 (Pa. 2012), recently has stated that funded employment “is a legitimate way to bring an injured claimant back to work and reduce his disability from total to partial.” As a result, the Appeal Board affirmed the Judge’s Order. The claimant did not pursue an appeal of this Order to the Commonwealth Court.
In light of the Appeal Board’s Opinion, employers and workers’ compensation insurance carriers may want to explore whether funded employment can be utilized in order to bring their injured workers back to work and reduce their disability, especially in cases where traditional jobs are not practicable for the injured worker.
For more information concerning the Appeal Board’s Opinion, or if you have a question about funded employment and a specific workers’ compensation claim, please contact Patrick T. Cusick, Esquire at (717) 391-4418 or pcusick@PostSchell.com.