Constitutionality challenges to cessation of disability benefits fall flat
Case name: Berman v. Dillard's, No. 1D11-4653 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 06/14/12).
Ruling: The Florida District Court of Appeal affirmed the judge of compensation claims' finding that the worker exhausted her five-year entitlement to permanent total disability benefits.
What it means: In Florida, workers over 70 lose PTD benefits after five years. This provision is constitutionally valid and is not age discrimination.
Summary: A 72-year-old worker suffered a compensable injury. At the age of 74, she began receiving permanent total disability benefits. After five years, the employer suspended her PTD, pursuant to a state law that allows PTD for a maximum of five years for workers who were injured when they were 70 or older. The judge of compensation claims found the worker exhausted her entitlement to PTD under the law. The Florida District Court of Appeal affirmed and rejected the worker's argument challenging the constitutionality of the law.
The worker contended that because her suit was based on age discrimination and her right of access to the courts the court had to apply the strict scrutiny standard of review. The Florida Supreme Court has stated that the rational basis test is the proper standard of review for age classifications in the workers' compensation law.
The court explained that under the rational basis standard the legislature may abolish a right where it authorizes a reasonable alternative for the redress of injuries or where it can demonstrate an overpowering public necessity for abolishing such a right. In this case, the workers' compensation law abolished the right to sue an employer for a work-related injury but provides adequate and sufficient safeguards for a worker who is injured on the job. Therefore, the court found the law did not violate the rational basis standard.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
August 20, 2012
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