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The personal leave used by a corrections officer to recover from a workplace injury did not constitute payment of workers compensation benefits under Florida statutes, an appellate court held Wednesday.
In Medina v. Miami Dade County, the Florida 1st District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee unanimously reversed a Florida Judge of Compensation Claims decision that denied the officer’s claim for temporary disability benefits.
Miguel Medina worked as a correctional officer for Miami Dade County. In 2017, he slipped and fell on the stairs of a prisoner transport bus and filed a workers compensation claim. The county, which is self-insured, accepted compensability for his injuries and knee surgery. The county made two payments of temporary disability compensation benefits, but did not issue benefit checks for two other periods because he was receiving full pay through the county’s payroll from his bank of personal leave days accumulated from 25 years of working for the county.
He later filed a claim for temporary disability compensation benefits and the reinstatement of his “substantially depleted” personal leave time, but the compensation claims judge denied the claim and his request for the reinstatement of his personal leave benefits.
The appellate court reversed the decision, holding that because the sick and vacation leave that was paid constitutes an employer-provided benefit, it cannot be used to avoid paying workers compensation, and the judge lacked the subject matter jurisdiction to reinstate those personal leave benefits.
Florida statutes do allow an employer to provide alternative benefits, but the benefits must be “paid or funded by the employer and not the claimant,” the court said.
The appellate court also noted that the subject matter jurisdiction of the judge extends to personal leave matters only when disability compensation benefits are awarded, when employer-provided benefits are provided at the same time as a disability compensation award or when the employer-provided benefits qualify for an offset, finding that requesting reinstatement of personal leave was not within the judge’s jurisdiction.
Since the wages Mr. Medina received were funded by his personal leave, they did not constitute payment of workers comp benefits under the statutes, the court held, and reversed and remanded the decision.
A New Jersey appeals court held Monday that a corrections officer was entitled to disability retirement benefits.