As you may recall, last month I brought up the case of Mason v. WCAB (Joy Mining Machinery), in which the Commonwealth Court of PA punished an injured worker merely for taking his pension. In that case, the Court had said workers’ compensation benefits will be suspended, unless the injured worker shows either that he or she is disabled from all work, or that he or she is actively seeking work.
The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has struck again, in Penn State v. WCAB (Hensal), decided on May 19, 2008. In this case, the injured worker argued that his workers’ comp benefits should not be stopped, even though he took his pension, because he was actively seeking work. As proof, the injured worker testified that he signed up for Career Link (a program run by the State of Pennsylvania) and periodically checked websites and newspaper ads, but found no work. Though the Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ), and the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB), agreed and found the injured worker’s efforts showed that he is truly looking for work and has not “voluntarily removed himself from the labor market,” the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania disagreed, and ordered the workers’ compensation benefits stopped.
Specifically, The Court said:
“Searching the Internet and newspaper ads for jobs, without more, does not constitute a job search; it constitutes “surfing” the web and reading the newspaper – it is window shopping. To show that he was engaged in a good-faith effort, a claimant has to show that he applied or sent applications for employment or other indicia that he was actively applying for employment.”
This case proves instructive on how to limit the damaging effects of taking a pension. Remember, too, that aside from this issue (of whether the PA workers’ compensation benefits are suspended due to the change in status), there is also the issue of the workers’ compensation insurance carrier taking a credit against the pension that is being taken. This process is littered with pitfalls which can permanently harm an injured worker’s rights under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. Before making a decision, like whether to take a pension, which could impact your workers’ compensation benefits, it is always a good idea to consult with a lawyer experienced in PA workers’ compensation matters.