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March 30, 2011

Refusing a light duty assignment may affect eligibility for other benefits

Refusing a light duty assignment may affect eligibility for other benefits
Peluso v Fairview Fire District, 269 AD2d 623

One factor to consider in cases involving claims resulting from job related injuries or disease: the impact of refusing to accept a light duty assignment with respect to other benefits that might be available to a disabled worker.

Clearly both General Municipal Law Section 207-a, applicable to firefighters and General Municipal Law Section 207-c, applicable to law enforcement personnel, provide for the discontinuation of benefits if a disabled police officer or firefighter declines to perform a light duty assignment consistent with his or her position unless the individual can produce evidence that he or she is medically unqualified to perform the light duty assignment.

In the Peluso case, the Appellate Division agreed with the Workers’ Compensation Board that Peluso’s rejection of a light duty assignment was evidence that he had voluntarily withdrew from the labor market. This, said the court, justified the Board denying his claim for workers’ compensation benefits.

Peluso retired from his position of fire captain, claiming he could no longer work as the result of a disabling back condition caused by several job related injuries.

The Appellate Division, in affirming the Board’s action, said that the fire chief’s testimony that several different types of light-duty assignments were available to all firefighters, including Peluso, depending on the nature of the disability constituted substantial evidence sufficient to sustain the Board’s determination.

The fire chief had testified that Peluso did not request a light-duty assignment, did not accept a light duty assignment when one was offered to him and that he continued to perform his regular duties as a captain, including responding to two calls on his last day of work.

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General Municipal Law§§ 207-a and 207-c - a 1098 page e-book focusing on administering General Municipal Law Sections 207-a/207-c and providing benefits thereunder is available from the Public Employment Law Press. Click on http://section207.blogspot.com/ for additional information about this electronic reference manual.

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