Massachusetts Court Discusses Aging Out of Workers’ Compensation Benefits

In Massachusetts, people hurt while working can often recover benefits for their harm pursuant to the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act. However, the benefits recoverable are limited. The Act dictates that benefits will be discontinued for people over the age of 65 in certain circumstances, as discussed in a recent Massachusetts case. If you suffered harm in the workplace, it would benefit you to contact a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your options.

Case Setting

It is reported that the claimant sustained a shoulder injury that required surgery while working as a custodian. The claimant filed a workers’ compensation claim and received benefits. When the claimant turned sixty-five, however, an administrative judge terminated his benefits.

Allegedly, the judge relied on § 35E in terminating the claimant’s benefits, noting it denies total or partial incapacity benefits to employees over the age of sixty-five who have been out of the labor market for at least two years and are eligible for social security benefits or employer-paid pensions unless they can demonstrate they would have remained active in the labor market. The claimant sought review, but the reviewing board of the Department of Industrial Accidents affirmed the administrative judge’s ruling. The claimant then appealed.

Aging Out of Workers’ Compensation Benefits

On appeal, the court rejected the claimant’s arguments, affirming the decision of the reviewing board. First, it found that § 35E did not violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights because the statute’s rationale, aimed at coordinating benefits and reducing employers’ costs, aligned with legitimate governmental goals.

Next, the court dismissed the claimant’s due process challenge, affirming that the statute provided a meaningful opportunity to be heard and allowing the claimant and his family to testify to rebut the presumption of non-entitlement to benefits.

The court then addressed the claimant’s argument regarding retroactivity, determining that the amendment adding the presumption in § 35E was procedural in nature and applicable to injuries irrespective of the date of occurrence.

The court also rejected the claimant’s contention that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) preempted § 35E, asserting that the workers’ compensation law was distinct from employer practices and not subject to control by employers.

Finally, the court declined the claimant’s request for remand, as he failed to raise this issue before the reviewing board. Consequently, the court affirmed the decision of the reviewing board, upholding the termination of the claimant’s benefits under G.L. c. 152, § 35E.

Talk to an Assertive Massachusetts Attorney

Workers’ compensation benefits aim to compensate workers for lost wages, medical expenses, vocational rehabilitation, and other costs resulting from workplace injuries. If you were hurt at work, you may be owed benefits, and you should talk to an attorney about your potential claims. Attorney James K. Meehan is a trusted Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer who can assess your harm and help you to seek the best outcome possible under the facts of your case. You can reach Attorney Meehan at 508-822-6600 or through our convenient online contact form to arrange a confidential conference.