Workers Compensation Supplemental Benefits Agreement
A claim for contractual relief seeking benefits in addition to the workers' compensation system is not barred by the exclusivity provision.
Indeed, while the Act expressly prohibits contracts that would limit an employee's right to workers' compensation, see Utah Code Ann. 34A-2-108 (1997), nothing prohibits an employer from agreeing to provide benefits in addition to those provided in the Act.
See Fredericks v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 255 Ill. App. 3d 1029, 627 N.E.2d 782, 786, 194 Ill. Dec. 445 (Ill. App. Ct. 1994); Decatur County v. Public Employment Relations Bd., 564 N.W.2d 394, 398 (Iowa 1997); Segura v. Molycorp, Inc., 97 N.M. 13, 636 P.2d 284, 287-89 (N.M. 1981); Hornsby, 487 A.2d at 1072.
Under the subsection entitled "Legal Status of Contractual Supplement to Workers' Compensation," Larson's workers' compensation treatise states as follows:
It is possible to imagine a number of troublesome legal questions that might emerge from the type of contract in which the employer agrees to pay, say, $ 250 a week benefits instead of the $ 200 specified by statute.
One cardinal principle, however, should ordinarily settle most such questions. That principle is the simple proposition that the contractual excess is not workers' compensation.
It performs the same functions, and is payable under the same general conditions, but legally it is nothing more than the fruit of a private agreement to pay a sum of money on specified conditions.
The provisions of a compensation act may be incorporated into the agreement by reference, but the operative force and the ultimate legal character of the arrangement remain that of private contract.
9 Larson & Larson, supra, 157.053, at 157-46.
In short, employment agreements expressly promising benefits in addition to those already mandated by the Act should be enforced according to normal contract law principles.
See, e.g., Stoecker v. Brush Wellman, Inc., 194 Ariz. 448, 984 P.2d 534, 538-39 (Ariz. 1999); Larke v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 568 So. 2d 58, 59 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1990); Board of Educ. v. Chicago Teachers Union, 86 Ill. 2d 469, 427 N.E.2d 1199, 1201, 56 Ill. Dec. 653 (Ill. 1981).