Massachusetts Court Discusses a Suspended Worker’s Right to Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Pursuant to the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act), employees who are hurt on the job are eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits that cover the cost of their medical care and compensate them for lost wages. As explained in a recent Massachusetts ruling, such benefits may be recoverable regardless of whether an employee is suspended from work for cause. If you suffered harm while working, you might be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits, and it is advisable to talk to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney about what benefits your rights.

History of the Case

It is reported that the claimant worked for the defendant as a paramedic and emergency medical technician for over twenty years before he suffered a debilitating ankle injury while transporting a patient. He filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits and received payments for close to one year. The defendant then suspended him without pay indefinitely after learning that he had been indicted on charges of diverting and misusing controlled substances.

Allegedly, the defendant, a self-insured municipal employer, discontinued the claimant’s workers’ compensation payments as well. The defendant then moved for the Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) to restore the payments. The DIA granted his motion, but the defendant refused to comply with the order requiring it to pay the claimant workers’ compensation benefits. The defendant appealed, and the court ruled in its favor, dismissing the enforcement actions. The claimant appealed.

The Right to Recover Workers’ Compensation Benefits

On appeal, the court reversed the lower court ruling and remanded the matter for further proceedings. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the Massachusetts suspension statute barred the claimant from receiving workers’ compensation benefits. The court explained that the suspension statute dictates that suspended employees cannot receive any salary or compensation during their period of suspension.

It clarified, however, that workers’ compensation benefits are not considered compensation under the terms of the suspension statute, as they are not payments that are made in return for services rendered. Instead, they are benefits that are triggered by harm that arises in the course of employment. In other words, the exchange that happens in the workers’ compensation context is the waiver of the right to pursue tort claims against an employer for the right to guaranteed benefits following injuries that occur at work rather than the payments offered in exchange for work completed. As such, the court found that the suspension statute did not bar the claimant from recovering workers’ compensation benefits.

Talk to a Seasoned Massachusetts Attorney

While some workers’ compensation claims are straightforward, others are complicated and are best handled by a knowledgeable attorney. If you sustained injuries while working, you could be owed benefits from your employer, and you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a seasoned Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer who can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the best legal outcome available. You can reach Mr. Meehan by calling 508-822-6600 or via the form online to set up a conference.