Federal Court Rules That Workers’ Compensation Settlements Apply Only to Workers’ Compensation Matters

On September 11, 2017, in Zuber v. Boscov’s, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an injured employee does not waive claims to FMLA and other benefits by settling his Pennsylvania workers’ compensation claim and signing a Compromise and Release Agreement (C&R).

In Zuber, Boscov’s fired the injured worker after he returned to work and requested additional medical leave to care for his injuries. Although Boscov’s approved the request, it fired Mr. Zuber shortly thereafter. A few months later, the store settled Mr. Zuber’s workers’ compensation claim. As part of the settlement, the parties signed a C&R Agreement, which is required under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. When Mr. Zuber sued Boscov’s under the FMLA, the federal trial court dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that it was barred by the language of the C&R. The 3rd Circuit reversed.

The 3rd Circuit ruled that the language of the C&R is governed by contract law and only applies to “matters which may be fairly said to have been within the contemplation of the parties when the release was given.” The Court also agreed that the C&R was limited to Mr. Zuber’s workers’ compensation claim.

Our office assisted the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, which filed an Amicus (friend of the court) brief. We have regularly challenged the use of C&R Agreements to prevent injured workers from filing other claims not related to their workers’ compensation claims.

(By Daniella A. Horn, Esquire)