Louisiana court supersizes bus driver's benefits by including part-time wages
Leger v. Calcasieu Parish School Board, No. 09-1261 (La. Ct. App. 04/07/10).
The Louisiana Court of Appeal upheld a lower court's determination that the employer had to include the wages a bus driver earned from her part-time employment with McDonald's in calculating her average weekly wage.
What it means: When there is ambiguity in the law, courts typically interpret it in favor of the party the law was designed to protect. Here, a workers' compensation statute could be read either to prohibit or allow an employee's part-time wages to be included in her AWW for an injury she suffered in the course of her primary employment as a bus driver. The court chose to interpret the law liberally in favor of the employee to "effectuate its purpose of relieving workers of the economic burden of work-connected injuries by diffusing the cost on channels of commerce."
Summary: A school bus was struck head-on by a drunk driver. The bus driver suffered severe injuries. In calculating the driver's AWW, the employer took into account her annual salary, along with supplemental payments, pay for field trips, and other miscellaneous monies received by the driver during the 52 weeks prior to the accident. The trial court determined that the employer should have also included income the driver received as a part-time crew trainer at McDonald's. The Court of Appeal upheld the trial court's ruling, finding that the driver was entitled to have her part-time wages included in her AWW calculation.
The applicable Louisiana statute reads: "If the employee is a part-time employee in one of the successive employments, is injured in that employment, but as a result of the injury also incurs loss of income from other successive employments, that employee shall be entitled to benefits computed by determining wages under the provisions of this Subsection using his hourly rate in employment at the time of injury and using the total hours worked for all employers of the part-time employee, but not to exceed his average actual weekly hours worked or forty hours weekly, whichever is less."
The employer contended that the phrase "that employment" referred to the part-time employment only. Because the driver was not injured in the course and scope of her employment with McDonald's, the statute was inapplicable. The Court of Appeal found that the ambiguity in the statute had to be resolved in favor of the employee. As a result, the employer had to include wages from both jobs in the AWW.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
August 2, 2010
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