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Workers Compensation News Spring 2018

PA Workers' Compensation Cases of Note

By John W. Zatkos, Jr., Esq.

 
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Defining “Integral part of employment” confirms that an employee’s injury in the airline’s parking lot is compensable

In Watson v. Piedmont Airlines, Inc., an airline employee slipped and fell in the employee parking lot. When the employee filed for Workers’ Compensation benefits, his employer issued a Notice of Compensation Denial, alleging the employee was not injured on the employer’s property because Piedmont did not own, operate, or maintain the parking lot. However, the injured worker produced credible evidence that the lot was only available to airport employees by using a special badge; therefore he was on the employer’s property by the scope and nature of his employment. The Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) determined that the accident did happen during the course of employment and reinstated benefits.

Piedmont appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Board of Appeals (WCAB), again alleging that Mr. Watson was not on their property and therefore, the injury was not a compensable work injury. The WCAB looked at past precedent and noted that, generally, an injury occurring when the employee is on the employer’s premises while entering or leaving work is compensable, since getting to or leaving the employee’s workstation is a necessary part of employment. It therefore upheld the WCJ’s decision and allowed Mr. Watson to collect Workers’ Compensation.

What does this mean? An area designated for employees that provides reasonable access to and from employees’ workstations is connected enough to a business to be considered an integral part of employment.

Pension credit allowed if injury occurred before enactment of Act 57

In Shaffer v. Helen Mining Co.,  the injured worker was collecting benefits and a pension. When the employer filed a Modification Petition, which would allow the employer to offset the benefits against the pension, reducing the amount of the benefits the worker would receive, the injured worker appealed. 

Section 204(a) of the Workers’ Compensation Act allows employers to offset pension benefits against workers’ compensation to prevent an employer from paying duplicate benefits when the date of the injury occurred before the enactment of Act 57 (as in this case). An employer cannot use the employee’s own contributions to retirement funds, but in this case, the employee had made no monetary contributions; the pension was funded solely by the employer based on hours worked and coal tonnage. Therefore, the WCAB upheld the WCJ’s decision to allow the offset.

What does this mean? If an injury occurred before the enactment of Act 57 in 1996, employers are allowed a credit for pension benefits in lieu of compensation. However, to be eligible for the credit, the pension must be employer funded, not employee funded.

 

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