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Appellate Court Finds Hurt Correction Worker Entitled to Receive Assault Pay Despite Mandatory Retirement

Massachusetts correction officers who are hurt by a prison inmate may be entitled to receive assault pay in addition to workers’ compensation benefits. In Flaherty v. Sheriff of Suffolk County, a Massachusetts correction officer was injured by a prisoner in early 2006. Following his workplace harm, an administrative judge ruled that the officer was partially disabled. As a result, the employee received workers’ compensation benefits through September 2010 when he accepted a lump sum settlement from his employer.

About two months later, the correction officer filed a request for assault pay for the period during which he received workers’ compensation benefits under G. L. c. 126, § 18A. Although the officer’s employer did not dispute that the man’s injury warranted assault pay, the employer argued the man was not eligible to receive such payments because he failed to file his claim within three years of his 65th birthday and subsequent mandatory retirement. A Superior Court ruled in favor of the officer, and his employer filed an appeal with the Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk.

On appeal, the court examined the language of the law at issue before stating the employer’s reading of the statute was contrary to the intent of Massachusetts lawmakers. Under the statute, workers who are injured by an act of prisoner violence are entitled to receive the difference between their normal salary and weekly workers’ compensation benefit payment in the form of assault pay. In addition, the court stated assault pay is not reduced if a worker is only partially disabled and capable of earning some wages.

According to the court, an injured correction worker may continue to receive assault pay from a former employer even if the employee resigns from his or her position. The appeals court said the relevant inquiry was not whether the hurt worker was currently employed but whether the officer was an employee at the time of the workplace incident. As a result, the court said the fact that the man reached the age of mandatory retirement was irrelevant.

The appellate court next ruled that the correction officer was entitled to receive assault pay for the period during which he received workers’ compensation benefits. Despite this, the court stated the officer was barred from recovering any assault pay that became due more than three years before he filed his case, due to the statute of limitations included in G. L. c. 260, § 3A. Finally, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk vacated the lower court’s order and entered a new judgment in favor of the hurt correction worker.

If you are a correction officer who was hurt at work in Suffolk County, you may be entitled to receive workers’ compensation and assault pay benefits. The knowledgeable lawyers at Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. are here to help you navigate the sometimes confusing process of filing your workers’ compensation claim. To speak with a caring Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney about your rights, contact Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. through our website or give us a call today at 800-367-0871.

Additional Resources:

Flaherty v. Sheriff of Suffolk County, 87 Mass. App. Ct. 157 – Mass: Appeals Court 2015

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