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Discharge for Misconduct Affects Pennsylvania Workers' Comp Benefits

It's a basic principle of workers' compensation law in Pennsylvania and other states that a worker does not have to prove negligence on the part of an employer (or a third party) in order to be eligible for benefits. If you got hurt on the job, and reported the injury to the employer in a timely manner, that's usually enough to make a claim for benefits.

But what happens when an employee engages in behavior that the employer considers a form of misconduct? How does that affect a Pennsylvania workers' compensation case?

In a recent case before the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Appeal Board, a delivery truck driver had violated an employer's policy that prohibited carrying loaded weapons on the job. The driver had suffered an ankle fracture while getting out of a company truck. Only ten days later, he was fired for violating the weapons policy after the discovery of a loaded gun in the truck.

The appeal board eventually found that in cases of willful misconduct, workers' comp benefits can be properly terminated. As of the date of discharge, an employee who commits such conduct is no longer entitled to benefits for his or her injury, even though it occurred on the job.

The outcome might be different if there were some good cause for the violation of the policy. In this case, there was no such justification for having a loaded .38 revolver in the company truck. But the appeal boards left the door open for the possibility of good cause that would override an established policy.

Source: "Carrying loaded handgun in company truck cuts off benefits," Risk & Insurance Online, 9-27-12

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