Ordinarily, reinstating PA workers’ compensation benefits for an injured worker is not a high burden. As we have previously discussed, usually benefits can be reinstated when the reason for the suspension of workers’ comp benefits no longer exists. When the injured worker once again suffers a loss in earnings due to the work injury, through no fault of the injured worker. benefits are to be reinstated. Case law tells us that a medical deposition is not even required in such a situation.
However, the relative burden of proof changes drastically when there has been a finding of “bad faith” with regard to a modified job offer. Pennsylvania’s appellate courts have consistently held that all work is equal and that an injured worker cannot refuse a job offer for reasons unrelated to the work injury. To do so would entail a finding of “bad faith,” which will stick to the injured worker for the life of the work injury. A recent case in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania demonstrated the drastic effect a “bad faith” finding can have on an injured worker in PA.
In Tyson Shared Services, Inc. v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Perez), the injured worker suffered a significant injury to his right shoulder on December 3, 2014. This required two surgical procedures. Shortly after the second surgery, the injured worker was offered a modified-duty janitorial position, which was consistent with the physical restrictions set by the treating surgeon. For reasons not discussed in the decision, the injured worker refused this job offer. A Claim Petition was litigated, resulting in a decision by a Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) granting temporary total disability benefits, but then suspending the benefits as of the date of the modified-duty job offer.