The Cassidy Law Firm Blog

Monday, November 14, 2016

Part-Time New Jersey Employee Receives Full-Time Worker's Compensation

When a part-time employee is injured, how should worker's comp benefits for future lost earnings be calculated?

A recent unpublished ruling in a New Jersey worker's compensation case helps clarify how benefits may be calculated for an employee working part-time when injured. The petitioner in the case, a part-time employee at Costco, was seeking workers compensation for a permanent partial disability. She asked that it be calculated based upon a "reconstructed" workweek.

What is a "Reconstructed Work Week"?

A reconstructed workweek means that a judge looks at an employee's compensation rate for part-time work, and then projects what he or she would have earned if working a 40-hour week at that rate. This "reconstructed" weekly compensation can then be used to calculate the employee's benefits.

Why Part-Time Workers Have Received Full-Time Worker's Compensation in the Past

The rationale for this approach has been that, though an employee may have been working part-time when injured, a permanent disability precludes full-time work in the future, so an employee needs to be compensated for this lost opportunity. Courts have generally given part-time workers the presumption that, but for their disability, they had the potential for full-time employment and have reconstructed their workweeks accordingly.

Judge Refuses to Reconstruct Work Week Because of Worker's Subsequent Full-Time Employment

The worker's compensation judge in this case refused to base the injured employee's award on a reconstructed workweek and used her part-time compensation instead. The judge reasoned that, after the injury that led to the claim, the petitioner had gone on to work full-time and was employed full-time when she filed the claim. Since the disability had not prevented her from earning full-time income, the judge concluded that there was no basis for calculating her worker's comp as if her disability had precluded full-time work.

Appellate Division Reverses, Faulting Lower Court for Not Fully Considering Details of Petitioner's Full-Time Employment

The New Jersey Appellate Division disagreed and remanded the case for more findings of fact and reconsideration of whether the workweek should be reconstructed. It said that that more factors be considered than simply whether the petitioner was able to work full time. The judge had failed to determine whether the petitioner's full-time workweek was shorter than customary or whether the permanent disabilities she suffered might diminish her future earnings from full-time work. It cited cases in which other part-time employees had been awarded benefits for a reconstructed workweek in spite of working full-time when filing their claims.

Opinion Offers Guidance on How to Determine Worker's Compensation Benefits

Though unpublished, this recent decision is a useful illustration of how workers comp may be calculated when a part-time employee is injured. If you or a loved one was injured at work, a litigator with specialized expertise in New Jersey worker's compensation law can help you present a strong case and get the full benefits to which you are entitled.

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