As noted in a prior blog article, an employer is entitled to argue that an injured worker has voluntarily left the workforce if the employee accepts a pension while receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
Ordinarily, this is accomplished by having the employer file a petition. In Krushauskas v. WCAB, 56 A.3d 64 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2012), the Commonwealth Court ruled that a workers’ compensation judge could suspend benefits based on a voluntary removal from the workforce even where the insurance company has not filed a petition to do so. In the case, the injured worker filed a penalty petition. During the litigation, the attorney for the insurance company presented evidence that the claimant had signed two forms accepting a lump sum of $35,000.00 and releasing his employer from all claims, including claims for disability pay and benefits. The workers’ compensation judge denied the penalty petition but ruled that the claimant had voluntarily retired from the workforce. On appeal, the Commonwealth Court affirmed. Even though the insurance company had not filed a petition to suspend the claimant’s benefits, they were entitled to cut the employee’s benefits off.
Bottom line: Never apply for a pension or accept any type of payment from an employer if you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Always consult a lawyer first.