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Massachusetts Appellate Court Issues Ruling Discussing the Calculation of Wages for Seasonal Workers

There are many steps to recovering workers’ compensation benefits and each one is important. One of these steps involves calculating the average amount of weekly wages that the injured worker earned. This calculation is then used to determine the amount of benefit payments that the worker will receive under the Massachusetts workers’ compensation system. If your average weekly wage is calculated incorrectly, you may find yourself receiving a much smaller benefits payment than what you are actually entitled to receive. At Mass Injury Group, our seasoned team of Boston workers’ compensation lawyers is prepared to help you ensure that you receive the fair outcome that you deserve.

In a recent claim, a Massachusetts Court of Appeal considered a challenge to whether an average weekly wage was calculated correctly. The employee appealed a ruling after a hearing that required the Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund to provide weekly benefit payments to the worker in the amount of $301.37, based on an average weekly wage calculation of $502.28. The worker filed a claim for benefits after suffering an injury while working as a painter. He painted houses during the warm months constituting roughly six months and was employed simultaneously as a worker at a restaurant. The employee challenged the order on the basis that the judge did not perform the average weekly wage calculation correctly.

The parties entered into a number of stipulations regarding the claim, including a stipulation that the employee was employed concurrently at the restaurant job performing 15 hours of work and earning roughly $226 weekly. During the hearing, the judge calculated the worker’s average weekly wage for his painting job by dividing the amount he earned over a 52-week period instead of only dividing it over a six-month period constituting the time that he actually worked.

On appeal, the employee argued that the insurance company did not bring up any matters regarding seasonal employment until during the hearing and that the employee did not have a chance to adequately prepare. The appellate court disagreed on the basis that seasonal employment was a main topic during the hearing and that the employee testified regarding his work painting houses.

The employee did not make any objections to comments or questions about his job being seasonal in nature and the record showed that he had an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses who testified about its seasonality. Based on this, the appellate court rejected the worker’s objection to how his seasonal work average weekly wage was calculated and affirmed the lower court’s calculation using the 52-week timeframe. The appellate court did, however, agree with the employee that the lower court made an unlawful change to one of the parties’ stipulations. It remanded the proceeding for a reexamination of the average weekly wage for the worker’s restaurant job.

If you were injured on the job, then you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in Massachusetts and reimbursements for your medical expenses. At Mass Injury Group, we know how stressful it can be to cope with your injury and the financial uncertainty that it brings. Our seasoned team of knowledgeable work injury lawyers is available for a free and private consultation to discuss your situation. Call our office today at 617-263-0060 or contact us online to get started.

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