The PA Workers’ Compensation Act was enacted to provide injured workers with much needed income and medical benefits for injuries occurring at work. You could say the Act was written to protect the interests of injured workers. Because of the intent behind the Act, there are times the Employer must follow certain procedures in order to suspend modify or terminate the benefits an injured worker is receiving. For instance, when an Employer obtains medical evidence that a workers’ medical status has changed from a total disability to a partial disability, they may modify the benefits you are receiving by providing you with a “Notice of Ability to Return to Work.” This is notice your condition has changed and that you are capable of working in some capacity. This is meant to put you on notice that failure to look for available work, or accept a job offer within your physical capabilities, could affect your future rights to receive workers’ compensation wage benefits.
On May 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled that Employers are only required to issue a Notice of Ability to Return to Work if entitlement to compensation has already been decided.
Prior to the School District acknowledging her work-related injury, and prior to the filing of a Claim Petition, on her behalf, a Teacher failed to accept a modified position offered by her Employer. Both the Teacher and her treating physician agreed that she was capable of performing the job that was offered. Her Attorney argued that the Offer of employment was invalid due to the Employer’s failure to issue the Notice of Ability to Return to Work mandated by Section 306 (B) (3) of the Pennsylvania Worker’s Compensation Act, as amended.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court disagreed with Claimant’s Counsel holding that the employer’s obligation to send Notice of Ability to RTW is not triggered until the Injured Worker is entitled to WC Benefits. As the Offer of modified employment was made prior to the commencement of any Litigation or acceptance of the work-related injury, the Employer was not required to send out the Notice of Ability to Return to Work when offering modified duty employment.
What does this mean for you? This holding makes it even more important to see an experienced attorney after you suffer an injury at work. If, as in this case, you receive a job offer before your injury has been accepted as work related, it is essential you have an experienced attorney to discuss these issues with. Your attorney will advise you what steps to take to protect your future entitlement to benefits.