Must Employer Keep Paying Employee Disability Benefits After He Voluntarily Retired from the Workforce ?

In County of Allegheny (Department of Public Works) v. WCAB (Weis), 872 A.2d 263 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005), the claimant, who was a heavy equipment operator, sustained a left knee injury. After paying benefits for twenty years, the employer filed a suspension petition because the claimant voluntarily retired from the workforce. At the hearings before the Workers' Compensation Judge (WCJ), the director of the employer's retirement board credibly testified that the claimant's disability retirement application indicated that he retired because he could no longer perform his job. Additionally, the employer's physician credibly testified that the claimant was capable of performing sedentary work. The WCJ found that claimant remained physically incapable of performing his pre-injury job and that the employer presented no evidence that work was available within claimant's limitations. Accordingly, the WCJ determined that the claimant did not voluntarily remove himself from the work force and denied the employer's suspension petition. On appeal, the Board affirmed the WCJ's decision and stated that, given the fact that the claimant retired because he could no longer perform his pre-injury job, he sustained his burden of demonstrating that he was forced into retirement because of his work injury. The employer appealed to this Court, and the Court reversed the Board.