Driver's voluntary removal from workforce sinks claim for benefits
Case name: State of Delaware v. Disharoon, No. S13A-01-003 RFS (Del. Super. Ct. 06/17/13).
Ruling: The Delaware Superior Court held that a driver was not entitled to total disability benefits.
What it means: In Delaware, a worker who voluntarily removes herself from the workforce can be disqualified from receiving disability benefits.
Summary: A paratransit bus driver for the state injured her left ankle, left knee, and low back in the course of her duties. She received workers' compensation benefits until a surgeon released her to work at full capacity. She returned to her job but was unable to perform her duties because of pain. She was subsequently released from her employment and did not work elsewhere. She saw seven different doctors who released her to work in sedentary jobs. Later, another doctor placed her in a no-work status. The driver sought total disability benefits based on her inability to sit for very long and the effects of her pain medication. The Delaware Superior Court held that she was not entitled to total disability benefits.
The state asserted that the driver was not entitled to benefits because she had not earned wages since before her work accident. The court pointed out that a period of time away from work does not necessarily preclude an injured worker from receiving work replacement benefits. However, the court found that the driver voluntarily removed herself from the workforce.
Although the driver claimed that she looked for sedentary work, the court found that she did not provide evidence of a good-faith job search. She did not name any potential employers or identify the type of job she sought. The court found that she took no demonstrable action to obtain sedentary work or seek training for it until a few days before the hearing when she made an appointment to begin the vocational rehabilitation process.
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September 23, 2013
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