Supreme Court Clarifies When Notice of Ability to Return to Work is Required in Pa. Workers’ Compensation Claims

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court unanimously ruled on May 26, 2015 in School District of Philadelphia v. WCAB (Hilton) that an employer is not required to provide an injured employee with a Notice of Ability to Return to Work (NARW) form when the employee has not yet filed a Claim Petition and has therefore never proven his or her entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits. The Court further ruled that an employer must provide an NARW under Section 306(b)(3) of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, 77 P.S. Section 512(3) when the employer seeks to modify a worker’s existing workers’ compensation benefits based upon medical evidence establishing that the injured employee is able to return to work in some capacity. Presumably, an employer is also not obligated to issue an NARW when it has denied a claim. Instead, the Court noted that Section 306(b)(3) of the Act presumes that the injury has caused a disability, a claim has been acknowledged as compensable, and the employer seeks to reduce its existing liability by decreasing the amount of benefits it has to pay.