Suspension of PA Workers’ Comp Benefits Denied When Injured Worker Unable to Perform Police Job, Regardless of Loss of Certification

Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, PA workers’ comp benefits can be suspended by a Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) when an injured worker’s loss of earnings is no longer due to the work injury, but is instead due to reasons other than the work injury.

This issue was recently handed by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in University of Pennsylvania v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Hicks).
Here, the injured worker was a police officer for the University of Pennsylvania. While performing his job, he injured his neck and low back in a motor vehicle accident, and became disabled from his job. Subsequent to his injury, Claimant was convicted of a crime which made him ineligible to be certified as a police officer.

As a result the workers’ compensation insurance carrier filed Petitions for Termination and Suspension. After litigating the matter, the WCJ denied both Petitions. The Termination Petition was denied since the WCJ found Claimant’s medical expert (who testified that he was not fully recovered from the work injury) more credible than the medical expert offered by the workers’ comp insurance carrier. The Suspension Petition was denied because the loss of the certification was not automatic, and the workers’ compensation insurance carrier failed to prove the injured worker here lost his certification.

On appeal, the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB) and Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania both affirmed. The Court found that since the WCJ found that Claimant remained disabled from his job, the status of the certification was irrelevant. Even if the status of the certification was relevant, the Court agreed with the WCJ, stating that the workers’ comp insurance carrier failed to prove the injured worker actually lost his certification.