- Returning To Regular-Duty Work With Restrictions Entitles One To Presumption Of Causation When Filing Reinstatement Petition; Reinstatement Is Right Even In If Discharged From Employment, Unless employer can establish claimant committed bad faith.
- January 16, 2015
- Law Firm: Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman Goggin P.C. - Philadelphia Office
The claimant suffered an injury to his Achilles tendon in January of 2009 and returned to his pre-injury job in June of 2009 with restrictions. In April of 2010, the employer eliminated the claimant’s position, and the claimant was transferred to another position without a loss in pay. The new job was less physically demanding. Approximately one year later, the claimant was discharged for unsatisfactory work performance. The claimant then filed a petition to reinstate his benefits.
The Workers’ Compensation Judge dismissed the claimant’s reinstatement petition, finding that the testimony did not establish that the claimant’s earning power was adversely affected by his disability. The claimant appealed to the Appeal Board, which affirmed, reasoning that the claimant was not entitled to a presumption that his loss of earnings was caused by his work injury.
On appeal to the Commonwealth Court, the claimant argued that both the judge and the Board erred in concluding that he was not entitled to a presumption that his loss of earnings was due to his injury since he originally returned to his pre-injury job with restrictions. The court pointed out that this scenario is distinguishable from one in which a claimant returns to his pre-injury position without restrictions and is then laid off, in which case, a claimant must affirmatively establish the work injury that caused the loss of earnings. The court held that, based on the judge’s findings, the claimant returned to his pre-injury job with restrictions and that his injury continued. Therefore, the claimant was entitled to a presumption of causation. The judge did not afford the claimant a presumption of causation but, rather, concluded that the claimant did not sustain his burden, which the court found misplaced. Therefore, the court vacated the decision and remanded the case to the judge to apply the presumption. The court also noted that, when a claimant is terminated from a modified or light-duty position, a loss of earnings is presumed to relate to the work injury. The employer must then show that the claimant committed bad faith or misconduct.