No Suspension of PA Workers’ Comp Benefits for Voluntary Removal from Labor Market Unless Employer Proves Injured Worker Voluntarily Retired

Cases dealing with benefits stopping in PA workers’ compensation, due an alleged “retirement” of the injured worker, are frequent on our blog. Usually, Pennsylvania Courts are reading the PA Workers’ Compensation Act ever more strictly. A recent case, however, gives hope to the injured worker in Pennsylvania.

In Keene v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Ogden Corp.), the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania reversed the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB), who in turn had reversed the Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ), when the WCJ denied a Petition for Suspension (for an alleged voluntary withdrawal from the labor market).

The WCJ found that the injured worker, who had hurt her knee at work in 1989, had not voluntarily withdrawn from the labor market, and denied the workers’ comp insurance carrier’s Petition for Suspension. The injured worker said she had looked for work for a long time and the failure to find any work had depressed her, so she stopped even looking. The WCAB reversed, finding that the injured worker failed to look for a job for a two-year period, showing that she had withdrawn from the labor market.

In a decision recognizing both reality and the humanitarian nature of the PA Workers’ Compensation Act, the Court reversed the WCAB. Essentially, the Court found that whether the injured worker looked for work is irrelevant in this context UNTIL the workers’ comp insurance carrier proves the injured worker “retired.” Here, the injured worker did not file for a pension, nor did she seek Social Security Retirement Benefits (though she was receiving Social Security Disability Benefits). There were no indicia at all that the injured worker had “retired.” As such, found the Court, the Petition for Suspension must fail.