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Maintaining an Attachment to the Labor Market after a Disability

When someone is injured on the job, NYS Worker’s Compensation affords that person (claimant) two remedies: lost wage benefits for the time period claimant is out of work because of disability associated with their injury, and medical treatment for their causally related injuries (subject to fee schedules and medical guidelines).  These benefits are also afforded to those who are deemed only partially disabled and are still capable of doing some type of work on a part-time or light-duty basis. Unlike totally disabled claimants, those with only a partial disability must maintain “attachment to the labor market” to continue receiving lost wage benefits. What is the purpose of this requirement, and how can you comply?

The requirement to maintain an attachment to the work force is not written in the New York Workers’ Compensation law itself, but rather developed out of cases litigated before the Workers’ Compensation Board. The theory behind the requirement is that someone who is totally disabled has been rendered entirely unable to work and thus does not need to look for less-demanding work. However, if someone who is only partially disabled and not working, they are required to look for work within their restrictions.  If not, and claimant continues to claim lost wage benefits, then the insurance carrier can argue that claimant has voluntarily removed themselves from the labor market for reasons not associated to their disability.

The Workers’ Compensation Board will accept proof of labor market attachment by work search efforts consisting of the following: attendance at Access-OVR, utilizing one-stop provided by the Department of Labor, independent work search efforts, contact with career or vocational counselors, etc.  Claimants are required to keep a log of all such efforts to find a job with duties, including any interviews attended or applications submitted.

If a claimant should refuse an offer of light-duty work, claimant has the burden of arguing there was some reasonable basis for the refusal, such as an absence of clearance to work from their doctor. Additionally, there are exceptions under which an individual can continue to receive disability without looking for or accepting light-duty work, such as where the individual is enrolled in an academic or vocational training program that will enable transition to a new career.

For assistance with workers’ compensation claims, NYS disability retirement disability, and Social Security disability, contact Peter M. Cordovano, Esq. at 845-691-4200.

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