Massachusetts Top Court Clarifies Meaning of “Regular Compensation” in Workers’ Compensation Cases

Most people work hard to earn a living, which is why on-the-job injuries can be so devastating. Not only can these injuries affect your ability to work, they can leave you with chronic pain and ongoing medical bills. At The Law Offices of Barry Feinstein & Affiliates, P.C., our Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorneys are committed to protecting the rights of injured workers every step of the way.

In one case, the top court in Massachusetts ruled that the effective date of retirement is six months prior to the filing of an accident disability application, altering the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission’s (“PERAC”) well-established practice of going by the date on which a worker last received regular compensation for employment, which PERAC understood to encompass supplemental pay.

The facts of the case are as follows. A male worker was injured while working at a construction services company in June of 2010. Just like any other worker in the state who suffers a work-related injury, the worker was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. As such, he began collecting benefits on the day that he was hurt and he also collected supplemental pay, which included two hours per week of sick or vacation pay.

In February of 2012, the employer filed an application to involuntarily retire the worker for accidental disability and, in late June 2012, the retirement board of the company approved the application to retire the worker. The worker received workers’ compensation benefits and supplemental pay until July 7, 2012. After the decision to retire the worker, PERAC concluded that the worker’s retirement date was July 7, 2012 since this was the last day he received “regular compensation” in the form of supplemental pay.

However, the Division of Administrative Law Appeals (“DALA”) reversed the decision made by PERAC explaining that the worker’s sick or vacation pay did not count as “regular compensation” under the law. DALA determined that the last time the worker had received such compensation was actually in June of 2010, on the date of the injury.

Based on this finding, DALA set the worker’s effective accidental disability retirement date as August 1, 2011 – six months prior to when the application for accidental disability was filed. PERAC pursued additional review from other ruling bodies but DALA’s ruling was affirmed every time.

The case ultimately ended up in the Supreme Judicial Court, which also held that supplemental sick time and vacation leave payments received as part of workers’ compensation benefits do not qualify as regular compensation under state law for the purposes of determining the effective date of accidental disability retirement. The court explained that the law defines “regular compensation” as “compensation received exclusively as wages by an employee for services performed in the course of employment for his employer.” Since the worker was not merely out sick or taking a vacation, the supplemental pay should not be considered regular compensation as the worker was no longer able to provide employment services to the employer.

Dealing with workplace injuries can be incredibly stressful. If you have suffered an on-the-job injury, you may be entitled to compensation for your harm. At The Law Offices of Barry Feinstein & Affiliates, P.C., our highly skilled Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers understand the nuances of this area of law and can effectively advocate for your rights. For your information, please call 1-800-262-9200 or contact us through our website.