Georgia Appeals Court Rules State Board of Worker’s Compensation Misapplied the Law Regarding Hurt Worker’s Average Weekly Wage

file7751235863518 morguefile Seemann.jpgIn Thomas v. Fulton County Board of Education, a Georgia woman was employed as a school bus driver nine months of the year, but her salary was paid over the course of 12 months. In June and July of 2010 and 2011, the woman also worked a number of additional jobs, including a position driving school buses to other parts of the nation. In October 2011, the woman suffered a compensable injury at work. Although the school district that employed the woman accepted responsibility for her injury, the parties disagreed regarding the average weekly wage the worker was entitled to receive.

According to the woman, her average weekly wage should have included the income she earned from her other bus driving position. Her employer countered that the woman’s workers’ compensation benefits should be calculated based solely on the full-time weekly wage she earned while working for the school district because her other employment was not concurrent. Following a hearing, an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) ruled that the worker’s other position was concurrent work under OCGA § 34-9-260. The ALJ also found that the statute did not require the positions to be contemporaneous in order to qualify as concurrent work. As a result, she was issued an average weekly wage award of nearly $600.

Next, the school board filed an appeal with the State Board of Worker’s Compensation. The Board overruled the ALJ’s decision and stated she incorrectly determined the two positions constituted concurrent work because the worker was not engaged in both positions simultaneously at the time of her compensable injury. Instead, the Board calculated the woman’s weekly wage to be about $337. After that, the superior court affirmed the Board’s decision without explanation, and the worker filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals of Georgia.

On appeal, the injured woman claimed the Board incorrectly applied the law when it determined her average weekly wage and found that her second bus driving position was not concurrent employment. The court first said the findings of the Board must be upheld if supported by any evidence. Next, the appellate court stated the Board misinterpreted the plain language of § 34-9-260 when it calculated the woman’s average weekly wage. The court found that the woman’s employment was concurrent with regard to the calendar year, and she should be reasonably compensated for her loss of income using her total wages. Despite this, the Court of Appeals also held that the ALJ miscalculated the worker’s average weekly wage because she considered the woman’s full-time weekly salary rather than the total amount of wages the driver actually earned during the preceding 13 weeks. As a result, the Court of Appeals of Georgia reversed the lower court’s judgment and remanded the workers’ compensation case for further consideration.

If you were injured at a Georgia workplace, you should discuss your right to receive benefits with a knowledgeable Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible. To schedule a confidential consultation with a skillful Conyers workers’ compensation attorney today, call the Law Offices of Nathaniel F. Hansford at (770) 922-3660 or contact us online.

Additional Resources:

Thomas v. Fulton County Board of Education, Ga: Court of Appeals 2015

Photo credit: Seemann, MorgueFile