After a workplace accident, a Massachusetts worker may have more to consider beyond the receipt of funds for lost wages and medical expenses. The Supreme Court addresses one of the related concerns in a recently issued Massachusetts workers’ compensation decision, SJC-12331. The injured employee in this case worked for a Massachusetts town’s department of public works for nearly 27 years. On the day he was injured, he began receiving workers’ compensation benefits as well as two hours per week of sick or vacation pay so that he could keep his union membership and life insurance.
The town decided to involuntarily retire the worker for accidental disability, allowed by G.L. c. 32, Sec. 7. The retirement board of the town approved the application, allowing the worker to receive his workers’ compensation benefits and supplemental pay until July 7, 2012. G. L. c. 32, § 7 permits three possible retirement dates: the date of the injury, the date six months prior to the filing of the written application for retirement, or the date on which he last received regular compensation for his employment in public service. The date must be the latest of the three. The Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) decided the employee’s last date of regular compensation was July 7, 2012, using his supplemental sick and vacation pay as the basis of their decision.
The employee appealed, and the division of administrative law appeals (DALA) reversed the decision, finding the supplemental pay was not “regular compensation” as defined by the statute. Instead, DALA found the retirement date to be six months prior to the filing of the application because the “regular compensation” ended on the day of the injury, making this one the latest of the three options. PERAC appealed this finding to the next level of administrative review (CRAB), which upheld DALA’s decision. Judicial review was then sought in the civil court system. The superior court also affirmed DALA’s decision, which then was appealed once more by PERAC and moved to the Supreme Court on their own motion.