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Court Finds Workers’ Compensation Award Should Include Value of Free-Tuition Benefit

On Behalf of | Nov 21, 2017 | Workers' Compensation Case Law |

When an injured worker files a Georgia workers’ compensation claim, the first step is determining if the injury is going to be accepted by the employer. If the employer contests the fact that the injured employee was covered, the employee may need to appeal that decision to a review board and eventually a court of law.

However, in situations in which an employer accepts that an injury was covered, the next questions involve determining what constitutes the employee’s compensation. This is important because whatever the employee’s compensation is determined to be will affect the weekly workers’ compensation benefits available to the employee.

Obviously, an employee’s wages are the bulk of their compensation. However, there may be other benefits a workplace offers that can be considered part of an overall compensation package. For example, a recent workers’ compensation appellate opinion held that free-tuition benefits were part of an employee’s compensation.

The Facts of the Case

The employee worked for a college that offered free tuition for employees. The college’s policy stated that employees can take for-credit classes on a “space-available” basis. The policy further states that an employee who receives a tuition-benefit of $5,250 or more must report the benefit as “income” on their tax return.

The employee was injured in a workplace accident, and the college acknowledged that the injury was covered. The employee calculated her compensation package to include the amount of benefit she derived from the free-tuition benefit. However, the college contested this, arguing that the free-tuition benefit should not be calculated as part of her compensation for the purposes of a workers’ compensation claim.

The Court’s Decision

The court agreed with the employee, finding that the tuition benefit constituted an “other advantage” that should be included in the employee’s wage calculation. In so doing, the court distinguished free-tuition benefits from medical insurance benefits, which had previously been determined not to be a part of an employee’s compensation package.

Here, the court explained that the employee actually used the benefit, and the benefit was easily reduced to a dollar amount. Additionally, the employee had testified that the tuition benefit was one of the reasons she took the job in the first place.

Have You Been Injured in a Georgia Workplace Accident?

If you have been injured in a Georgia on-the-job accident, you may be entitled to Georgia workers’ compensation benefits until you are able to return to work. Workers’ compensation claims are not always straightforward and are often contested in some form by an employer. For assistance in the preparation and filing of your claim, contact the dedicated Georgia workers’ compensation attorneys at J. Franklin Burns, P.C. We have decades of collective experience assisting injured Georgia workers with pursuing the benefits they need to help get through the tough times. Call 404-920-4708 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your case today.