Public Employees and Workers’ Compensation
Police officers, firefighters, correction officers, sanitation workers, paramedics and other public employees face many unique dangers at work due to the unpredictable nature of their jobs. However, just like all types of injured workers, public employees face many of the same challenges when filing Workers’ Compensation claims. In Pennsylvania, public employees are covered under the same Workers’ Compensation laws as private employees. However, public employees may be qualified for additional benefits, such as those found under the Pennsylvania Heart and Lung Act and Act 534/632. These programs can complement an injured public employee’s rights under the Workers’ Compensation or may even supersede the Workers’ Compensation claims.
The Pennsylvania Heart and Lung Act benefits police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other public safety officials in the event that they are temporarily disabled because of an injury that occurred in the line of duty. An example of injury that occurs in the line of duty is a police officer being assaulted by a suspect. Another example is a firefighter falling off of a ladder. Yet another example is a paramedic coming into contact with infected blood.
The Heart and Lung Act does not operate the same way as traditional Workers’ Compensation does. The Heart and Lung Act provides public employees with full compensation, as well as the continuation of employee benefits, if they are disabled while performing their job duties. That means that under the Heart and Lung Act, eligible employees are entitled to retain any vacation, sick, personal, or other leave they had before the accident occurred. Additionally, the Heart and Lung Act provides benefits for temporary disabilities only, so not every injury will fall under the Heart and Lung Act. Injuries that result in a permanent disability are covered by Workers’ Compensation. Furthermore, recovery under the Heart and Lung Act is limited to injuries occurring in the performance of an employee’s duties. It is important to note that an employee collecting Heart and Lung Benefits may also collect Workers’ Compensation benefits, which is typically two-thirds of their regular salary. Finally, a public employee may collect benefits under the Heart and Lung Act until the time that the employee is able to return to work, or the employee is considered permanently disabled from the injury.
As for the Pennsylvania Act 534/632, this Act benefits employees of Pennsylvania penal and correctional institutions under the Bureau of Corrections of the Department of Justice, as well as any employee of a state psychiatric hospital or Youth Development Center under the Department of Public Welfare. Therefore, Act 534/632 applies to any employee who has been injured by an inmate or by a person who has been committed to a mental institution. Act 534/632 also benefits any employee who is a volunteer firefighter under the Department of Public and is injured while carrying out their firefighting duties. This Act, like the Heart and Lung Act, pays the full salary for employees. Also like the Health and Lung Act, only injuries that are temporary in nature are covered by Act 534/632. Furthermore, only injuries that occur while performing an employee’s job duties will be covered under Act 534/632.
Our attorneys at Michael J. O’Connor & Associates are committed to helping the men and women in Pennsylvania’s public employee departments. If you are a public employee and have been injured at work, our attorneys can help make sure that you receive the maximum amount of compensation that you are entitled to. Email or call our toll free number at 800-518-4LAW for a free initial consultation and review of your case.