Court Retains Definition of Wages for Workers' Comp Claims

A unanimous Supreme Court ruling issued Tuesday protects the\r\nWisconsin state workers' compensation system by excluding benefits\r\nfrom the definition of wages for claims.

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A unanimous Supreme Court ruling issued Tuesday protects the Wisconsin state workers'' compensation system by excluding benefits from the definition of wages for claims.

In the case Theuer v. Labor & Industry Review Commission, the court ruled that the state legislature never intended fringe benefits to be counted as wages in determining workers'' compensation benefit levels.

Steven Theuer suffered a workplace injury Oct. 29, 1997, at Ganton Technologies Inc.

The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) refused to include benefits as part of his wage calculation for workers'' compensation.

The ruling was upheld by an administrative law judge, the Wisconsin Labor & Industry Review Commission and a Racine County Circuit Court.

The Supreme Court agreed, and said including benefits in workers'' compensation claims would create new and increased costs for businesses, and would be complex and costly for the DWD to calculate.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the state''s largest business group, lauded the landmark workers'' compensation ruling.

"This is a major victory for businesses and workers because it protects the system that pays injured workers and avoids protracted litigation," said James Buchen, vice president of government relations for WMC.

Buchen said allowing fringe benefits to be included with wages of workers'' compensation would increase costs by 30 percent for Wisconsin businesses.

"The system currently provides swift payments to workers and was never intended to include fringe benefit wages."

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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