Georgia Supreme Court Weighs in on Concurrent Similar Employment

On May 23, 2016, the Georgia Supreme Court issued a decision in the case Fulton County Board of Education v. Thomas, ___ Ga. ______ (May 23, 2016, Case No. S15G1205).  The Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals (Thomas v. Fulton County Board of Education, 331 Ga. App. 828 (2015).

The facts were simple.  Thomas was injured during her job driving buses for the Fulton County Schools.  The 13-week period prior to her injury included the part of the summer, during which she did not work for the county. During the summer, Thomas worked for another company called Quality Drive Away, delivering newly-manufactured school buses.  Although she did not work for the county during the summer, she did received pay on a 12-month basis.

Thomas believed that her 13-week average weekly wage calculations should include her pay from both the county and Quality Drive Away on grounds that the two job should be considered "concurrent similar employment." The county disagreed, noting that while the jobs were similar, they were not concurrent.  The county argued that the jobs were never held at the same time and were, therefore, not concurrent.

The ALJ agreed with Thomas' reasoning, and based the average weekly wage on both jobs. The Board's Appellate Division reversed, agreeing with the employer that the jobs were not concurrent. The Superior Court affirmed, but the Georgia Court of Appeals disagreed, and reversed yet again.  The county appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court which granted certiorari and affirmed.

The Supreme Court reasoned that the plain language of the average weekly wage calculation statute controlled:

(1) If the injured employee shall have worked in the employment in which he was working at the time of the injury, whether for the same or another employer, during substantially the whole of 13 weeks immediately preceding the injury, his average weekly wage shall be one-thirteenth of the total amount of wages earned in such employment during the 13 weeks

O.C.G.A. Sec. 34-9-260(1) (emphasis added).  Because the statute expressly includes the phrase "whether for the same or another employer," the Court ruled that the wages for both employers should be used in the average weekly wage calculations.

This decision includes a helpful and succinct overview of the appellate decisions in this field.  If you would like a copy of the decision, please contact us.  

State Board Makes Minor Changes to Board Rules - Effective 2/16/16

The Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation has done some minor housekeeping by tweaking two of the Board's Rules.  

Rule 61(b)(42) has been promulgated for the implementation of a new form.  The new form is called a "WC Change of Information," and it must be used to change any information about parties in the Board's files.  Most parties had previously tackled this problem by filing WC-14s and specifying new information in the form's "Other" box.  Click here to download the new form [PDF].

Rule 102(B)(4) was amended to remove the requirement that the party requesting a hearing must provide the correct name and address for the third-party administrator.  This change is presumably a response to the difficulty that most Claimant's attorneys  faced when filing a claim.  Many of the larger insurers use multiple TPAs, and it is often difficult if not impossible to determine the correct TPA without contacting the insurer directly.

If you have questions about these rule changes or the impact that they might have on you, please contact us.

Governor Deal Signs HB 154

Governor Deal signed House Bill 154 into law on May 6, 2013. Here’s a summary of the new legislation:

1) Limitation of medical treatment for 400 weeks after the injury for non-catastrophic injuries;

2) Provide a 15-day time-frame in which mileage must be reimbursed;

3) Reduce the annual percentage rate for lump-sum payments and advances to 5% (down from 7%);

4) Require an employee who attempts a light-duty job under O.C.G.A. Sec. 34-9-240 to attempt the proffered job for eight cumulative hours or one workday;

5) Increase the maximum temporary total disability rate to $525.00 per week (up from $500.00)’ and,

6) Increase the maximum temporary partial disability rate to $350.00 per week (up from $334.00).

Georgia Senate Approves HB 154 on March 12, 2013

It would appear that the latest amendments to the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act are very close to being enacted. The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 154 with a vote of 45-0 on March 12, 2013. We anticipate that the current version of the bill will be signed by Governor Deal and will go into effect on July 1, 2013. Again, the changes are summarized as follows:

1) Limitation of medical treatment for 400 weeks after the injury for non-catastrophic injuries;

2) Provide a 15-day time-frame in which mileage must be reimbursed;

3) Reduce the annual percentage rate for lump-sum payments and advances to 5% (down from 7%);

4) Require an employee who attempts a light-duty job under O.C.G.A. Sec. 34-9-240 to attempt the proffered job for eight cumulative hours or one workday;

5) Increase the maximum temporary total disability rate to $525.00 per week (up from $500.00)’ and,

6) Increase the maximum temporary partial disability rate to $350.00 per week (up from $334.00).

Georgia General Assembly Considers Sweeping Changes to Workers' Compensation Law

The Georgia General Assembly is considering a fairly comprehensive overhaul of the Workers’ Compensation Act. The bill has already resoundingly passed the House on February 11, 2013. House Bill 154 proposes the several changes to the Act. The most sweeping proposed change would limit medical benefits to 400 weeks from the date of the accident. Also controversial is the proposal to require an employee to attempt a light-duty job for an entire day before “quitting” the job to have benefits reinstated.

Here’s a nutshell of the proposed changes:

1) Limitation of medical treatment for 400 weeks after the injury for non-catastrophic injuries;

2) Provide a 15-day time-frame in which mileage must be reimbursed;

3) Reduce the annual percentage rate for lump-sum payments and advances to 5% (down from 7%);

4) Require an employee who attempts a light-duty job under O.C.G.A. Sec. 34-9-240 to attempt the proffered job for eight cumulative hours or one workday;

5) Increase the maximum temporary total disability rate to $525.00 per week (up from $500.00)’ and,

6) Increase the maximum temporary partial disability rate to $350.00 per week (up from $334.00).

Feel free to contact us if you would like us to send you a copy of the proposed legislation or update you on its progress.