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Overtime counts toward workers compensation benefits: Oregon court

Overtime counts toward workers compensation benefits: Oregon court

SALEM, Ore.—For the purpose of determining workers compensation benefits, a claimant's “regular work” includes overtime, Oregon's Court of Appeals ruled has ruled.

The case of Compensation of Judy A. Cole vs. Thrifty Payless Inc. dba Rite Aid Corp. addresses the claim of a warehouse worker who suffered a back injury.

In April 2008, Ms. Cole's doctor released her to return to her “regular work,” which is defined by Oregon law as “the job the worker held at injury.” However, the doctor ordered that the claimant was not to work overtime and indicated the restriction was permanent.

On average, Ms. Cole was working 43 hours per week when the injury occurred, court records show.

Her employer awarded her permanent partial disability, including a payment for impairment, but did not include a payment for work disability.

Additional disability payment sought

Ms. Cole sought an administrative review, asserting entitlement to an additional payment for work disability. She argued she was entitled to the work disability payment because she had not been released to perform her “regular work,” which included overtime.

Oregon's Workers' Compensation Board accepted the claimant's argument, finding that her “regular work” included the overtime she worked routinely before her injury.

On appeal, the employer did not dispute that the claimant worked overtime, but argued there was no requirement for her to work overtime, so that was not part of her regular work.

The employer also maintained that a worker's “regular work” includes only the duties they are required to perform and not their hours. Secondly, the employer argued that, even if “regular work” includes the worker's hours, it does not include overtime.

Overtime part of ‘regular work'

But the Oregon Court of Appeals disagreed. It ruled Wednesday that the Oregon Legislature intended the definition of “regular work” as “work that a worker did on a steady or customary basis.”

It said “regular work” includes overtime regardless of whether the worker is required to work the overtime.

“Doing so helps ensure that a worker is compensated not only for the general effects of a disability, but also for the particular effects of the disability on the worker's ability to perform his or her job at injury,” the court said in upholding the board's ruling.