Employer must pay benefits during incarceration until conviction
Case name: Rogele, Inc. v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Mattson), 24 PAWCLR 54 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 04/02/09).
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that Pennsylvania law does not permit an employer to discontinue payment of workers' comp benefits even though the claimant is incarcerated. One judge dissented, arguing that Pennsylvania case law supported the cessation of benefits to a claimant incarcerated after an accepted guilty plea.
What it means: An employer cannot unilaterally discontinue a claimant's benefits while he is incarcerated but has not yet been convicted.
Summary: A laborer suffered a compensable on-the-job injury and was paid partial disability benefits until he was laid off. He then received total disability benefits until he was incarcerated for soliciting the murder of his wife. The court found the claimant was entitled to benefits while he was incarcerated awaiting trial.
The employer petitioned to suspend the claimant's benefits because he voluntarily withdrew from the workforce when he was incarcerated without bail. The employer stopped paying the claimant benefits.
The employer argued that benefits should be suspended because the claimant pleaded guilty to the criminal solicitation charges. The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court held that the law did not permit the benefits to be discontinued for periods of incarceration prior to actual conviction. The court reasoned that if the legislature had intended the benefits to be discontinued for an incarcerated recipient prior to conviction, it would have written the statute to achieve that result.
The court upheld the determination that the employer was required to continue paying benefits until the claimant's conviction.
May 21, 2009
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