Workers’ compensation benefits discontinued upon individual’s retirement based on a finding that he had “removed himself from the labor market”
Richardson v Schenectady City School Dist., 2012 NY Slip Op 05230, Appellate Division, Third Department
Dana Richardson objected to a Workers' Compensation determination that he had voluntarily removed himself from the labor market and denied his claim for workers' compensation benefits.
Richardson, a health teacher for the Schenectady City School District, sustained a variety of compensable injuries, including injuries to his head and back, while breaking up a fight between students in February 2006. In December 2008, he submitted a letter to the school district advising it that he would be retiring effective June 2009.
After the effective date of Richardson’s retirement, the school district and its workers' compensation carrier moved to suspend benefits based upon Richardson's “voluntary withdrawal from the labor market”. Ultimately, Workers' Compensation ruled that Richardson had, indeed, withdrew from the labor market and as a result was no longer entitled to awards upon his retirement in 2009.
The Appellate Division affirmed Workers' Compensation’s decision, explaining that “Whether [Richardson’s] retirement constituted a voluntary withdrawal from the labor market presented a factual issue for the Board, and its determination will not be disturbed if supported by substantial evidence.” In this instance Workers' Compensation relied on the report of a physician who performed an independent medical examination and opined that, while Richardson suffered from a moderate to marked disability, he was capable of working in a modified duty capacity.
Another element that was considered: Richardson’s letter informing the school district indicated that “he was taking advantage of a very favorable retirement incentive.” Richardson did not indicated that his physical disabilities played a role in his decision to retire and, in addition, he testified that he never discussed retirement with his doctors, did not advise the employer that he was retiring due to his disabilities and never asked for an accommodation to return to work within his restrictions.
Although there was “evidence that may have supported a different result,” the Appellate Division said that the determination was supported by substantial evidence and thus would not be disturbed.
The decision is posted on the Internet at:http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2012/2012_05230.htm