On September 7, 2012, the Honorable Emille Cox, Judge of Workers Compensation in Camden, decided a Motion in favor of my client that will benefit many injured workers in the State of New Jersey when the workers’ compensation carrier requires a worker to return to work light duty, or part time, and that work results in less pay than the temporary disability rate. In this case I filed a Motion on behalf of my client, Mr. Soto, requested that his part time wages be supplemented by temporary disability benefits.
The facts were pretty simple. Mr. Soto was returned to work light duty for 4 hours a day by the authorized treating doctor. His pay by the employer for the 20 hours a week was significantly less that the temporary disability rate he was receiving from the workers’ compensation carrier while he was out of work totally. I asked the employer/carrier to make up the difference between the part time pay and the workers’ compensation temporary disability rate and they objected. They argued that since the petitioner was returned to minimal light duty work, his temporary disability benefits should be limited by the amount earned in the light duty capacity. Our argument was that limiting Mr. Soto to 20 hours a week was the decision of the authorized treating physician, and that this limitation imposed a severe financial penalty on Mr. Soto, yet gave a benefit to the employer. Mr. Soto was follow the authorized doctor’s orders, yet was receiving a paycheck almost one-third of the amount he was receiving while he was totally out of work under this same doctor’s care. We argued that if this was allowed all employers/carriers would return their workers to work part time after an injury and thus have the benefit of paying them only part time wages, and not the full workers’ compensation temporary disability rate. Judge Cox noted that part time unemployment benefits are paid to workers who are reduced to part time work, and felt that workers’ compensation benefits should be on par for injured workers. Judge Cox agreed with our argument, and in a Reserved Decision he found that allowing a respondent to provide only minimal part time work and to then reduce a petitioner’s temporary disability benefits would defeat the purpose of the temporary disability provisions of the workers’ compensation statutes. Mr. Soto’s Motion was granted. For any temporary disability issues, please contact the Workers’ Compensation Team at Stark and Stark.
Marci Hill Jordan is a Shareholder in Stark & Stark’s Marlton, New Jersey office, concentrating in Workers’ Compensation Law. For more information, please contact Ms. Jordan.