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Workers' Compensation Blog

Can Teachers Collect Leave Benefits During Summer Break?

Friday, September 23, 2016

The days are now long, morning frost is a thing of the past, and thousands of Maryland’s educators’ are enjoying their summer breaks. What better way to kick off this year’s few months of relaxation (or switching gears for that summer job) than to brush up on your workers’ compensation knowledge?

Workers' Comp Benefits and Summer Break

This time of year, I always hear from a number of my teacher clients who are wondering how the summer break will affect their workers’ compensation benefits. Generally speaking, under the Workers’ Compensation Act, Maryland workers are entitled to 2/3s of their wages (known legally as temporary total disability or “TTD”) during the recovery period after an injury when they are incapable of working. (Most boards of education offer a 100% wage benefit to their employees for a specified time period. This issue and its implications on workers’ compensation benefits will be discussed in greater detail in a future blog).

Boards of Education however, will often refuse payment of TTD during our educators’ summer vacation - making the argument that the injured teacher is a 10 month employee and would not be paid during the summer months if they had not been injured at work.
The law in Maryland, however, makes clear that the having an actual intention to work or the opportunity to work for that matter, is not a requirement to collect TTD. Maryland’s test is loss of earning capacity, or the inability to work, regardless of whether there would be actual wage loss. Maryland’s highest court has held that both retired workers – who may never work again (no intention of working), and incarcerated employees (no opportunity to work), are both entitled to payment of TTD during the period they would be physically unable to perform their job duties.

In short – teachers are entitled to TTD over the summer if they are still recovering from a work injury and can’t physically perform their job duties, regardless of whether or not there are any job duties available to perform.

Pay Plans and Benefit Coverage

Another important factor to consider under these circumstances is whether an individual takes a 10 month pay or chooses to spread out their pay over 12 months. Boards of Education will often argue that if a teacher is compensated on the 12 month plan, they should not be entitled to TTD benefits during summer because they are already being paid and would then be “double dipping”. However, this could not be further from the truth. Even if the pay is spread over 12 months, teachers are still only being paid for 10 months of work and accordingly, are still entitled to summer TTD. Deferring earned income does not preclude TTD benefits during the summer months.

Bring on the heat.

Jury Got It Right For Montgomery County Correctional Officer

Friday, September 23, 2016

Attorney Charles Schultz of Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby, LLP was successful in overturning a decision of the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission which had found that a career correctional officer did not sustain an occupational disease of Hypertension as a result of his employment. The Commission denied the injured worker’s claim for benefits because he suffered from numerous other health conditions which could have been a factor in his development of Hypertension. After a two (2) day jury trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the officer, who had worked for Montgomery County for just two (2) years prior to being diagnosed with Hypertension (he had worked as a correctional officer for 11 years prior to that in a different jurisdiction), finding that his condition was caused by his employment.

Hypertension for Correctional Officers

For many correctional officers in Maryland, it is presumed that Hypertension is caused by the stresses and strains inherent in the job - a law that makes perfect sense to those who understand the daily challenges of a correctional officer. Correctional officers are in the position of having to protect inmates from harming themselves, other inmates, or the officers themselves, and often times when they are greatly outnumbered by the inmates. This stressful environment can contribute to the development of Hypertension - which has been recognized by Maryland’s Legislature by including correctional officers in the heart and lung law.

What This Means for the Officer

The court victory means that the officer will now receive payment for all future medical treatment and any past medical bills resulting from his Hypertension, payment at two thirds of his wages tax free for any time he has missed from work as a result of his condition, and payment for the permanent disability he now has due to his condition.

If you know someone who is a corrections officer and is suffering with job-related hypertension, please have them contact Ken Berman at (301) 670-7030.

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