Thursday, October 22, 2009

Supreme Court Reverses Commonwealth Court Ruling That Labor Market Survey May Be Conducted in Claimant's Place of Residence Out Of State

The Commonwealth Court held in Riddle v. WCAB (Allegheny City Electric, Inc.) that it was appropriate to conduct a labor market survey in the area where the claimant resides out of state. The Court relied on pre-Act 57 case law for guidance. These cases held work should be identified in the place of the claimant's residence. Riddle Post

The Commonwealth Court holding recognized the employer increases its chance of prevailing on a modification of benefits by treating the claimant fairly. The claimant and employer also may have benefited if, for example, the Claimant's new residence had more job opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

The Commonwealth Court's decision did not require an out of state labor market survey.

The Supreme Court reversed, holding the courts are bound by the mandatory nature of the statute. Riddle v. WCAB (Allegheny City Electric, Inc.) Section 306(b)(2) of the Act states when the Claimant moves out of state the labor market survey shall be conducted in the usual employment are where the injury occurred. The Supreme Court said it was the policy choice of the General Assembly to utilize the usual employment area where the injury occurred, even though the resulting job opportunities are outside the Claimant's reasonable commuting area.

With the Supreme Court holding, employers will have to rely on labor market surveys in the usual employment area where the injury occurred. Out of state claimants can take solace in the fact the employer cannot create an in house light duty position and modify benefits if the claimant does not return. Motor Coils MFG/WABTEC v. WCAB(Bish) Affirmed by the Supreme Court

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