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KNOXVILLE, Tenn.The time an employee spends on strike is voluntary and must be considered in calculating workers compensation benefit awards, Tennessee's Supreme Court has ruled in a decision favorable for employers.
Last week's decision in Phillip Goodman Sr. vs. HBD Industries Inc. reduced the average weekly wage calculation applied to determine the benefit level awarded to Mr. Goodman from $388 per week to $149 per week.
Mr. Goodman was on strike for 28 weeks and had been back to work for less than a month when he injured his back, neck, left shoulder and left leg when a hose he was pulling got stuck and he was "jerked down and to the left real severely," court records state about the January 2002 accident.
In October 2005, a trial court had found that Mr. Goodman sustained a permanent partial disability to 66% of his body. The trial court awarded him a lump sum of $102,529, based on a rate of $388 per week that Mr. Goodman earned in the 52 weeks prior to his injury.
The trial court's average weekly wage earnings calculation excluded the 28 weeks Mr. Goodman spent on strike.
HBD appealed, arguing the time Mr. Goodman spent on strike was voluntary and should be included in average the weekly wage calculation.
The Supreme Court agreed the trial court erred and reduced Mr. Goodman's weekly compensation rate to $149. With that rate for 264 weeks, Mr. Goodman's award was reduced to slightly more than $39,000 under the Tennessee high court's ruling.