Lack of evidence leads to benefits calculated as full-time worker
Case name: Swiss Colony, Inc. v. Deutmeyer, No. 09-0810 (Iowa 08/06/10).
Ruling: The Iowa Supreme Court held that a worker was a full-time employee for calculation of workers' compensation benefits and that the employer was entitled to a credit for subsequent injuries because it overpaid benefits to the worker. The court remanded for a recalculation of the worker's weekly benefits.
What it means: In Iowa, full-time and part-time employees are distinguished on the basis of weekly earnings, not the number of hours worked per week. When no evidence shows whether a worker's earnings are higher or lower than a regular full-time worker in the industry, the worker is considered full time.
Summary: A worker was injured when his left leg struck a pole or beam while he was operating a forklift. The damage to his left foot and leg was so extensive that his leg was amputated below the knee. At the time of his injury, he worked for the employer an average of 30 hours a week. He also had another job where he worked an average of 40 to 45 hours a week. The parties disputed whether the worker was a part-time employee. The Iowa Supreme Court held that the worker was entitled to benefits as a full-time employee and remanded the case for a recalculation of benefits.
The employer argued that the workers' compensation commissioner's finding that the worker earned less than the usual earnings by a regular full-time laborer in his industry was not supported by substantial evidence. The court agreed with the employer's argument because no evidence showed whether his earnings were higher or lower than a regular full-time worker in the industry. The court mentioned that full-time and part-time employees are distinguished on the basis of weekly earnings, not the number of hours worked per week.
Before an arbitration decision, the employer paid weekly benefits to the worker in an amount in excess of the benefits awarded by the commissioner. Both parties agreed that the employer was entitled to a credit for the overpayments, but they disagreed as to what type of credit was permitted under Iowa law. An Iowa statute provides that an overpayment of weekly benefits is credited against benefits due for a subsequent injury to the same employee. The court stated that the employer was not entitled to a credit for future benefits for this injury.
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October 28, 2010
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