Massachusetts Court Discusses Calculating When a Work-Related Disability Began

Many people who suffer injuries on the job are ultimately unable to return to work. In such instances, they may be able to obtain workers’ compensation benefits to make up for their lost wages. If they receive other benefits or compensation from their employer while they are on leave for their work-related disability, though, it may complicate the issue of when their accidental disability retirement occurred. This was illustrated in a recent Massachusetts case in which the court ultimately determined that six pay did not constitute compensation for the purpose of making such determinations. If you were hurt at work, you might be able to recover benefits, and you should meet with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney as soon as you can.

Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that in a recent case, a Massachusetts court determined that vacation or sick pay, when mean to supplement workers’ compensation payments, is not considered regular compensation as defined by the law. The case revolved around an employee that worked for a town’s Department of Public Works. He suffered job-related injuries and began receiving workers’ compensation benefits along with two hours per week of sick or vacation pay.

Allegedly, the town sought an involuntary retirement of the employee due to accidental disability, and the retirement board approved the application. The Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) determined that the employee’s retirement date was the last day he received regular compensation, which included the supplemental pay. The employee appealed, but the decision was affirmed. He then appealed again.

Calculating When a Work-Related Disability Began

The issue on appeal was the interpretation of the statutory definition of “regular compensation.” PERAC argued that recurring payments for vacation or sick time should be considered regular compensation, but the court disagreed. The court held that regular compensation refers to ordinary, recurrent payments not inflated by extraordinary amounts, such as bonuses or overtime pay. It must also be remuneration for work performed. The court noted that the supplemental pay received by the employee was not for work performed but was intended to compensate for his inability to work due to injury. Therefore, it did not meet the criteria for regular compensation.

Further, the court agreed with the reasoning that supplemental pay received while an employee is unable to provide services to the employer does not qualify as regular compensation. PERAC’s argument that the supplemental pay was earned prior to the injury was also dismissed since the employee was no longer able to provide services to the employer in Vernava’s situation.

Speak to a Skilled Massachusetts Attorney

The Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act affords people injured at work the right to collect benefits from their employer, regardless of whether they receive sick pay during their period of disability as well. If you suffered harm at work, you should speak to an attorney about your right to seek benefits. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a skilled Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney who can assess the facts of your case and help you seek any benefits available. You can reach Mr. Meehan to set up a meeting by using the form online or by calling him at 508-822-6600.