Can an Employer Force Employees to Come into Work to Collect Their Disability Checks?

Erie County (NY) executive Chris Collins was frustrated by an annual outlay of about $11 million for workers comp. So the county implemented a policy requiring workers collecting indemnity (about 300 in all) to pick up the checks in person from the supervisor. Collins hoped that the face-to-face contact would lead to quicker return to work for employees capable of performing light duty.

The WCB did not like this at all. In a decision issued last month, the WCB said the new policy “places an additional burden upon an injured worker at a time when the claimant is not medically able to return to the workplace.” They called the policy ‘illegal.’

The Collins administration fired back, saying that the board lacks the authority to halt Erie County’s new policy and that it will continue, at least for workers with temporary injuries.
Erie spokesman Grant Loomis blasted the comp board: “We were not surprised that a board full of Albany bureaucrats would raise objections to getting municipal workers back to work as soon as possible.”

Loomis said Collins wants to revise the program to call in only the recently injured who might have substantially recovered and can perform light tasks, currently about two dozen people. Collins wants workers to receive their checks directly from their supervisors, who then would ask whether they could return to work in some capacity.

Oh, and where are the employees to pick up their checks? The Sheriff’s offices. Maybe that will dissuade any potential fraudsters!

We always recommend that our clients try to accommodate injured employees with ‘light duty’ work restrictions, because we feel that having the employee come to the workplace every day, even if just to sharpen pencils, encourages them to come back to work. In this case, isn’t County Exec Collins trying to do just the same thing?

The fight is in the courts, and we will keep you updated. (More info: http://www.buffalonews.com/city/article85848.ece)

Greg Lois is the managing partner of LOIS LLC and dedicates his practice to defending employers and carriers in New York and New Jersey workers' compensation claims. Greg is the author of a popular series of "Handbooks" on workers' compensation, and is the co-author of the 2016 & 2017 Lexis-Nexis New Jersey Workers' Compensation Practice Guide. Greg can be reached at 201-880-7213 or glois@loisllc.com