A Pennsylvania worker who suffered a broken forearm was out of work for over a year, and his treatment included several surgeries. His treating physician released the worker to return to full time unrestricted job duties, but the worker’s employer did not have any job openings. Nevertheless, because the worker was medically released, the employer petitioned to stop payment of all workers’ compensation wage and medical benefits.
At the hearing on the worker’s claims to continue to receive his wage and medical benefits, the worker’s physician testified that the worker was released to do any kind of work; the physician placed no restrictions on the worker’s ability to perform all of his job duties. The physician acknowledged that if the worker actually experienced physical problems or limitations once he did return to work, the physician might find it necessary to change his opinion.
The worker testified that he did not feel capable of performing fully at work and that he believed that his employer did not have a job for him. The employer failed to produce any evidence of a job opening, taking no position at the hearing if it did or did not have a job opening available. Instead, the employer simply argued that when a worker is fully medically released, all benefits must cease.
The court sided with the worker, finding that where a recovered worker remains unemployed and available for work, the employer must prove the existence of an available job at the hearing. If there is no available job, then the worker is entitled to continued benefits. The employer may meet its burden by showing that it referred the worker to a suitable job that would fit the worker’s ability and experience. If such a referral is proven, the worker must demonstrate that he or she has in good faith followed through on the job referral but remains unemployed.
If you are a recovering injured worker, be sure to pursue all job referrals from your employer. If you are cleared for light or sedentary work, you must take suitable jobs offered for such work. If you are an employer with a recovering injured employee, you will remain responsible for all benefits until the employee is actually employed, or until you can prove that he or she has failed to secure any employment that is actually available.