Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Supreme Court Holds Suspension of Pension Will Not Make Light Duty Job Unavailable

City of Phila. v. WCAB (Szparagowski) & Milici v. WCAB (City of Phila.) are cases of injured Philadelphia firefighters that took disability pensions. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether light duty dispatcher jobs were unavailable because the Claimants' disability pensions would be suspended if they took the jobs. The Supreme Court held the light duty positions were available.

The Court looked at the pension plans for firefighters and dispatchers and observed that the Claimants could not suffer a diminution of pension benefits by returning to the light duty positions. The Claimants argued they would be losing the qualitative benefit of the payments of pension benefits in part because they would continue to receive the benefits if they took a job with another employer. The Supreme Court rejected this argument. The Court stated St. Joe Container Co. v. WCAB (Staroschuck) 633 A.2d 128 (Pa. 1993) only makes jobs unavailable when the Claimant would be made less than whole. The Court stated the Claimants' argument in this case asked that they be made more than whole.

Mr. Milici had been awarded benefits for an irreversible lung disease. He argued his benefits could not be modified because the Employer could not show a change in condition, the first prong of the Kachinski standard. The Supreme Court clarified that "change in condition" equates with "change in earning power" and medical evidence can establish this even in the case of an irreversible disease.

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