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Thursday, January 6, 2022

Municipal police officers’ health contribution not based on temporary disability

Municipal police officers' contributions to their health benefits plans could not be based on the rate of their temporary disability benefits. The purpose of workers’ compensation temporary disability benefits is to provide an injured worker with a partial wage to replace wages because of a work-related accident.

Plaintiffs, police officers employed by the City of Trenton who were on work-related temporary disability and their police union, appealed the dismissal with prejudice of their declaratory judgment complaint against the State of New Jersey and the denial of their cross-motion to amend the complaint.

Plaintiffs sought relief from the State Health Benefits Program (SHBP), N.J.S.A. 52:14-17.25 to -17.46a., which requires all public employees to contribute to the cost of their health benefits plan based on their "base salary." Plaintiffs argued that cost of their SHBP benefit contributions while disabled should be calculated based on the temporary disability benefits they receive, not their "base salary.”

The court stated, “There is no basis in our principles of statutory construction to substitute temporary disability benefits, a temporary payment to employees arising from work-related injury status, for collectively bargained salary, pensionable or not. There is no need to reach outside of the SHBP statutory scheme to discern the legislature's intent. When the plain meaning of base salary is read together with section 17.28c's detailed and repetitive nexus between employee earnings and cost contribution, along with our holding in Paterson Police PBA, we find nothing in plaintiffs' complaint which sustains a cause of action.”

The State moved pursuant to Rule 4:6-2(e) to dismiss the complaint with prejudice based on the plain language of the statute. The plaintiffs' cross-motion to amend the declaratory judgment complaint sought alternate relief, declaring that recipients of temporary disability benefits should not make any contributions to the SHBP while disabled.

Applying well-established principles of statutory construction, the court held that temporary disability benefits are not "base salary" for purposes of the SHBP. The court also held that the denial of plaintiffs' cross-motion to amend the complaint was not an abuse of discretion where the unambiguous language of the statute rendered the proposed amendment futile.

FRANK GRILLO, ET AL. VS. STATE OF NEW JERSEY (L-0495-19, MERCER COUNTY AND STATEWIDE), (A-1038-19), Grillo v. State, 469 N.J.Super. 267, 263 A.3d 520, 2021 (App. Div. 2021)

Recommended Citation: Gelman, Jon L.,  Municipal police officers’ health contribution not based on temporary disability, Workers' Compensation Blog (Jan. 6, 2022),l

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Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters). For over 5 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  1.973.696.7900  have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

Blog: Workers ' Compensation

Twitter: jongelman

LinkedIn: JonGelman

LinkedIn Group: Injured Workers Law & Advocacy Group

Author: "Workers' Compensation Law" Thomson-Reuters