The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that an offer of a job to an injured worker who moved out of state for family reasons is insufficient grounds to suspend her workers\’ compensation benefits. In Motor Coils Mfg. v. WCAB (Bish), (decided December 27,2006) the Court affirmed the prior decision of the Commonwealth Court denying an employer\’s suspension petition for failure to accept a job offer at the employer\’s Pennsylvania plant.
In Bish, the claimant suffered a work injury in July of 1997. After surgery, she returned to work with her employer at a modified position in June of 1998. In the summer of 2000, the employer laid off 126 employees including the claimant and her husband. Claimant’s wage loss benefits were reinstated effective the date of the layoff.
In November of 2000, claimant’s husband accepted a job offer in Oklahoma. Claimant relocated to Oklahoma with her husband. She sought employment but was unable to locate any jobs within her capabilities. In March of 2001, the employer offered claimant the modified job she was performing when she was laid of. The position was at the Pennsylvania plant where the claimant had worked. Claimant refused the job offer as she was living in Oklahoma. The employer filed a petition to suspend wage loss benefits alleging the claimant, Mrs. Bish, did not act in good faith when she refused the job offer.
The Commonwelth Court and the Pa. Supreme Court disagreed noting that the claimant’s actions in relocating to Oklahoma were in good faith. The Court specifically stated that the job in Pennsylvania was not actually available to the claimant as it was not within reach of her current residence.
Thomas P. Cummings, Esq.