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Williams v. State Compensation Insurance Fund

Court of Workers Compensation of Montana

February 1, 1996

STEVE WILLIAMS Petitioner
v.
STATE COMPENSATION INSURANCE FUND Respondent/Insurer for HELENA YOUTH RESOURCES Employer.

          Submitted: December 18, 1995

          DECISION AND JUDGMEN

          Mike McCarter JUDGE

         Summary: After an industrial injury, claimant was paid for 100 hours of sick leave donated to him by co-workers. The insurer argues he is not entitled to TTD benefits during the period he received this sick leave.

         Held: Under section 39-71-116(19), MCA (1985), temporary total disability means a condition resulting in total loss of wages. In discussing gross wages, the statute refers to "earnings received by the employee at the time of the injury." "Wages" encompasses sick leave accrued by the injured employee but not sick leave donated by co-workers. Donated sick leave amounts to a gift and is not part of the claimant's wages. Cf. Milender v. John Carpenter, 230 Mont. 1, 748 P.2d 932 (1987) (wages paid by an employer to an injured worker who is not able to work are deemed gratuitous payments and not wages within the WCA.) Claimant is entitled to the TTD at issue.

         Topics:

Constitutions, Statutes, Regulations and Rules: Montana Code Annotated: Section 39-71-116(19), MCA (1985). For purposes of determining whether an injured worker can receive TTD while also receiving sick leave donated by co-workers, the WCC begins with section 39-71-116(19), MCA (1985). "Wages" encompasses sick leave earned by the injured employee but not sick leave donated by co-workers. Donated sick leave amounts to a gift and does not prevent the employee from simultaneously receiving TTD benefits. Cf. Milender v. John Carpenter, 230 Mont. 1, 748 P.2d 932 (1987) (wages paid by an employer to an injured worker who is not able to work are deemed gratuitous payments and not wages within the WCA.)
Wages: Vacation and Sick Leave. For purposes of determining whether an injured worker can receive TTD while also receiving sick leave donated by co-workers, the WCC begins with section 39-71-116(19), MCA (1985). Wages" encompasses sick leave earned by the injured employee but not sick leave donated by co-workers. Donated sick leave amounts to a gift and does not prevent the employee from simultaneously receiving TTD benefits. Cf. Milender v. John Carpenter, 230 Mont. 1, 748 P.2d 932 (1987) (wages paid by an employer to an injured worker who is not able to work are deemed gratuitous payments and not wages within the WCA.)

         Petitioner, Steve Williams (claimant), commenced this action seeking an adjustment in his benefit rate, payment of medical bills, and other relief. Following negotiations the parties entered into a settlement of all issues except one. Their settlement agreement is set forth in a Stipulation and Order for Dismissal Without Prejudice filed November 7, 1995. Pursuant to paragraph 2 of the stipulation, the parties agree to reserve for the Court's decision the following issue:

[W]hether the claimant is disqualified from receiving TTD benefits for the period claimant received 100 hours of other employees' sick leave in May of 1994.

         Since the settlement agreement does not dispose of all issues, the Court did not enter an order of dismissal and will now address the above issue.

         Facts

         The issue at hand is presented upon the pleadings and briefs of the parties. The parties agree that claimant was injured in an industrial accident on August 2, 1986, and that the respondent, State Compensation Insurance Fund, is liable for the accident. (Petition for Hearing, ¶s 1 and 2; Response to Petition for Hearing, ¶s 1 and 2; Stipulation and Order for Dismissal Without Prejudice (generally).) In their briefs they further agree that in May 1994 the claimant was paid 100 hours of sick leave by his employer and that the paid sick leave was donated to him by fellow employees rather than earned by claimant. Finally, at least by implication, they agree that claimant's employer is a public corporation within the meaning of section 39-71-116(20), MCA (1985).

         Discussion

         The issue presented is one of statutory interpretation involving section ...


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