Recently, the Worker’s Compensation Appeal Board ruled on a situation where the time of injury employer offered a modified duty job to its injured worker. In Gibson-Bowman v. Apex Tool Group, LLC, the injured worker was off work as a result of a back injury. She had back surgery as a result of the injury and was released to work with certain limitations. The employer offered her a modified duty packaging job for which she was required to place a bid. If she placed such a bid and got the job she would have been forced to give up her heat treat job which she had held for 11 years and paid substantially more than the packaging job. Her rights were spelled out under the collective bargaining agreement.
The Appeal Board reviewed the case of St. Joe Container Company v. WCAB (Staroschuck),534 Pa.347,633 A.2d 128(1993), a Pennsylvania Supreme Court case which dealt with the availability of work as applied to union workers. St. Joe stands for the proposition that a modified duty job offer is not available to an injured union worker if that worker would be required to give up union benefits as part of accepting the modified duty job. In light of the fact that claimant would lose her seniority on her regular job, and face a substantial pay cut, the Appeal Board concluded the job was not truly available to her and did not constitute a valid job offer.
Injured workers in the Pennsylvania Worker’s Compensation system often find themselves with a modified duty job offer from the time of injury employer. Whether or not to accept such an offer is often a complicated question. The Worker’s Compensation attorneys at Abes Baumann have been dealing with these issues for many years. We have dealt with this from State College and Altoona to Greensburg and Uniontown as well as Mercer and New Castle. If any injured workers have problems of this nature, feel free to give us a phone call with no cost or obligation to you.