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Employer Seeks to Prove “Change in Condition” to Suspend Employee’s Lost Wage Benefits

Under Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws, an employee who is out of work for at least seven days due to an on-the-job injury is entitled to weekly income benefits. These benefits are paid at the rate of 2/3 of the employee’s average weekly wage (subject to a state minimum and maximum).

The first check is to be mailed within three weeks of the date the employee was first out of work. If the employee is out of work for more than 21 consecutive days, he or she is to be paid for the “waiting week” as well.

In a recent case, an administrative law judge was asked to determine not the date upon which an employee’s weekly benefits began but whether those benefits should be ended based on a change in the employee’s condition.

Facts of the Case

In a case decided by the State Board of Workers’ Compensation, the employee worked in an office as an administrative assistant. In August 2015, an exterminator visited the office; on the next day, the employee had a reaction to the chemicals the exterminator had applied. She stopped working and started medical treatment a few days later, triggering an obligation by the employer to pay the employee weekly disability benefits. She attempted to return to work in November 2015, but she again had a reaction. Nevertheless, the employer (who was self-insured for the purposes of workers’ compensation) sought to terminate the employee’s weekly benefits checks on the ground that the employee had “a change for the better, either physical or economic or both.”

The Administrative Law Judge’s Decision

The judge ruled in favor of the employee, stating that he was not convinced that the employee had experienced a physical change in condition for the better. This decision was based on both the employee’s own testimony and the medical evidence, including a physician’s diagnosis of reactive airway dysfunction syndrome and chemical inhalation injury related to the office fumigation incident.

The judge also accepted the employee’s testimony concerning her business losses at the consignment shop, leading him to conclude that the employee had not had a positive economic change in condition, as urged by the employer. In so holding, the court also rejected the employer’s argument that the employee’s work as an administrative assistant at the time of her injury was “concurrent similar employment” to the work she was performing at the consignment shop.

Have Questions About Georgia Workers’ Compensation Law?

If you need to talk to an experienced Atlanta workers’ compensation attorney, call the Law Offices of T. Andrew Miller, LLC, for a free consultation. You can call us at 678-605-9109 or use the contact form located on this website. We help injured workers throughout the greater Atlanta area, including those in DeKalb and Cobb Counties.