Pennsylvania workers’ compensation okay, even with disclaimer

Pennsylvania workers may be interested in a recent case involving a worker, a workers’ compensation disclaimer and the state’s Supreme Court. The issue began when the woman began working as a private security guard with Allied Barton Security Services. At the time of her hire, she signed a workers’ compensation disclaimer stating that she waived her rights to sue any clients of Allied in the event that she was injured. The disclaimer covered such injuries and damages under Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Act.

This meant that if she was injured in the course of employment for one of Allied’s clients, then she could not sue them or make claims against them or recover losses or damages from them. Unfortunately, she did sustain an injury after falling while working at a Sunoco, Inc. refinery. She did file a workers’ compensation claim and obtained benefits. However, when she filed a negligence claim against Sunoco for failing to maintain safe working conditions, the claim was barred due to the disclaimer that she previously signed.

The worker claimed that the disclaimer was invalid under Section 204(a) of the Act. Both superior and trial courts ruled in favor of Sunoco, stating that Section 204(a) does not cover injuries sustained while working for third parties. After appealing to the Supreme Court, it was decided that the lower court’s rulings would hold. However, it was decided that the worker was within her rights to obtain workers’ compensation benefits from her employer.

Any Pennsylvania worker should be mindful of any documents that they sign upon accepting employment. Our state’s workers’ compensation laws are in place to protect workers and their families from financial hardship following a work-related accident or injury. Unfortunately, workers’ compensation claims can be complicated by extenuating circumstances, disclaimers and other agreements pertaining to third parties. This is why it is beneficial for any worker injured on-the-job to consider their legal rights and seek the appropriate channels of support.

Source: hr.blr.com, “Workers’ comp: Did disclaimer bar Pennsylvania employee’s claims?” May 30, 2013



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