Safety and OSHA News

Does drug dealing disqualify injured worker from receiving comp benefits?

A court recently decided whether an injured worker’s drug dealing would bring an end to his workers’ comp benefits. 

Robert Adams injured his lower back while working for Blackhorse Carriers Inc. of New York in December 2007. He received workers’ comp benefits for most of the period from Jan. 14, 2008 to Sept. 7, 2010.

In November 2009, Adams was convicted of sale of a controlled substance. On Sept. 7, 2010, he was sentenced to prison for three years. Adams didn’t receive workers’ comp benefits while in prison.

After his release from prison, Adams sought reinstatement of his wage replacement benefits. Blackhorse Carriers claimed Adams had violated workers’ comp law by testifying at a June 30, 2010 hearing that he hadn’t received any income while receiving wage replacement benefits. In effect, the employer said Adams had an income from selling drugs while he was collecting comp benefits.

New York’s workers’ comp law says if a claimant knowingly lies, he is disqualified from receiving “any compensation directly attributable to such false statements.” A discretionary penalty of forfeiture of all future workers’ comp benefits can also be imposed by the judge.

A workers’ compensation law judge found Adams had violated comp law via his testimony that he hadn’t received any income while collecting wage replacement benefits because he had earnings from illegally selling drugs. The Workers’ Compensation Board upheld the decision. The Board revoked Adams’ previous benefits from the date of his testimony and barred him from receiving future benefits. Adams appealed to a state court.

Recently, a New York appeals court found there was substantial evidence to support the Board’s decision that Adams had violated comp law by lying about his income. The appeals court also refused to reverse the court’s finding that denial of future benefits was appropriate in this case.

The court said income was income. It didn’t matter that Adams’ earnings came from an illegal source. He still lied about it, and therefore he forfeited his future wage replacement benefits.

(Robert Adams v. Blackhorse Carriers Inc., Appellate Div. of the Supreme Court of NY, Third Dept., No. 522265, 9/29/16)

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