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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Minimal Light Duty Doesn't Limit Temporary Disability Benefits

A NJ Compensation Court ruled that an employer was unable to limit the payment of temporary disability benefits based an mere limited light duty.

Petitioner filed a motion in which he requested supplemental temporary disability benefits. Respondent objected and argued that, because the petitioner was returned to only minimal light duty work, his temporary disability benefits should be limited by the amount earned in such light duty capacity (rather than an amount based upon regular wages. The judge disagreed as he found that allowing a respondent to provide only minimal light duty work and thereby reduce a petitioner's temporary disability benefits would defeat the purpose of the temporary disability provisions of the workers' compensation statutes. Petitioner's motion was granted. 

"As stated earlier, temporary disability is intended to provide Petitioner with an amount which the legislature has determined to be sufficient for his living expenses while temporarily disabled.  Light duty, on the other hand, provides the injured worker an opportunity to transition back to his or her regular job by performing less strenuous duties for his/her employer until such time as he or she is able to perform his or her regular tasks.  The emphasis here is the benefit of the program to the employee.  We cannot lose sight of the fact that this is workers’ compensation.  Respondent’s position here would turn this aspect of the program into virtually an employer’s compensation, since an employer in Respondent’s situation will benefit financially the longer Petitioner remains on light duty status."

Soto v. Herr's Foods, Inc.
11-18325, decided September 7, 2012 by the Honorable Emille Cox, J.W.C.