The 18 year battle over including or excluding overtime hours in the calculation of average weekly wage continues to rage. All Illinois benefits are derived from the workers "average weekly wage" in the 52 weeks preceding the accident. Accordingly, weekly earnings or weekly wages have been a hotly contested area of dispute. Average weekly wages are used to calculate both temporary disability benefit rates and permanent disability benefits. Section 10 of the Illinois Workers Compensation Act clearly and specifically excludes overtime earnings in calculation of average weekly wage.
However, since 1990, in Edward Hines Lumber, mandatory overtime hours have been included where they form the "regular hours" of employment. There the worker for Hines Lumber was regularly required to work mandatory 10 hour days, for 6 days a week, as a condition of his regular employment. Since the overtime hours were mandatory and required as part of the "regular employment", the overtime hours were included in the calculation of wages at the straight time rate of pay.
After the Hines case, the Illinois Commission continued to exclude overtime earnings if either not regularly worked or if not mandatory. The Commission's definition of "regularly worked" generally included overtime hours at the straight time rate of pay if the worker "regularly worked" overtime hours in more than 50% of the weeks or where the overtime was mandatory. The Illinois Appellate Court also consistently excluded overtime hours that were not mandatory as a condition of employment or which were not part of a set number of hours or regularly worked each week as part of the regular employment. Edward Don (2003) and Freesen (2004).
Last year in Airborne Express (March 2007), the court held voluntary overtime is excluded. The Appellate Court said that merely working voluntary overtime on a regular but voluntary basis, is definitely excluded in calculation of average weekly wage otherwise, the overtime exclusion in Section 10 of the Act would be completely meaningless. Some have argued that Airborne excludes all overtime hours unless both mandatory and consistently regularly worked as a set number of hours but, that does not appear to accurately comport with the prior case law under Freesen and Don or prior Commission decisions.
Shortly after Airborne decision, the Commission decided Terrell v Jacksonville (07 IWCC 1319, October 2007) wherein the Commission said that to include the overtime hours, the worker must show that the overtime was either regular and consistent or mandatory. In Terrell, a mental health technician was required to work overtime hours because the facility was short staffed and the employer did not deny the overtime was mandatory so, the Commission included the overtime. In Lockhart v Dominick's (08 IWCC 318, March 2008) a delivery driver testified he was required to finish daily deliveries and some of his overtime hours were mandatory but, he failed to prove the exact amount of mandatory overtime hours so the overtime hours were excluded. Recently in Heffner v Little Lady (08 IWCC 510, May 2008) the Commission also denied inclusion of the overtime hours for a maintenance supervisor where the overtime hours were not shown to be mandatory or part of the regular hours of employment.
In reading the case law, it looks like the definition for exclusion of overtime under Section 10 is much more easily defined than in considering all the situations where overtime hours might or should be included in calculation of wages. The Appellate Court in Airborne clearly said that they have consistently held that the Section 10 exclusion of overtime in calculation of weekly wages excludes all overtime hours where the worker is not required to work the overtime as a condition of employment (i.e. mandatory) or excludes the overtime hours which are not part of a set number of hours consistently worked each week.
The nuance in terms in overtime wages is often misunderstood. Workers and employers should both be very concerned with the proper calculation of average weekly wage and they should both be encouraged to contact an experienced Illinois workers compensation attorney for consultation given that a fair amount of money is involved in calculation of temporary disability benefits or permanent partial disability benefits. Especially large amounts of money can be involved in long term payments of wage differential benefits and in claims for permanent total disability, both of which payments can last for the full lifetime of the worker.
Chicago Workers Compensation Attorneys -- http://WC-Chicago.com -- 9-21-08
The ISBA Workers Compensation Section will be hosting a CLE program on Advanced Illinois Workers Compensation on October 13, 2008 offered both in Chicago at the ISBA Regional Office (map and directions) and in Collinsville, Illinois (map and directions). The course will include current topics facing Illinois workers' compensation attorneys, including repetitive trauma in carpal tunnel cases, workplace slip and fall injuries, parking lot cases, qualifications and obligations for vocational rehabilitation and job retraining, Medicare Set Aside future medical expense accounts – avoiding pitfalls, ethical practice considerations at the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission and an update on recent Illinois workers compensation case law.
John B. Adams,moderator, Roddy, Leahy, Guill & Zima, Ltd, Chicago
David Barish, Katz Friedman Eagle et. al., Chicago (Chicago program)
Deborah Benzing, Law Offices of Lauren Meachum, Chicago (Chicago program)
Brad Bleakney, Bleakney and Troiani, Chicago (Chicago program)
Richard Hannigan, Mundelein (Chicago program)
Carol Hartline, Williams and McCarthy, Rockford (Collinsville program)
Jennifer Kieswetter, Ottawa (Chicago program)
Michelle Lafayette, Ganan & Shapiro, PC, Chicago (Collinsville program)
Kevin Meckler, Carbondale (Collinsville program)
David Menchetti, Cullen, Haskins, Nicholson & Menchetti, Chicago (Chicago program)
Robert C. Nelson, Nelson & Nelson, Belleville (Collinsville program)
Bradford Peterson, Urbana (Collinsville program)
Lawrence Scordino, Chicago (Chicago program)
Kristen Wadiak, Beatty and Motil, Glen Carbon (Collinsville program)
Kenneth Werts, Craig & Craig, Mt. Vernon (Collinsville program)
Chicago Workers Compensation Attorneys -- http://wc-chicago.com - 9-14-08
Governor Blagojevich appointed a new Chairman of the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission, effective October 3, 2008. Arbitrator Gerald Jutila was unanimously recommended by the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Board and appointed by the Governor. Under the 2005 workers’ compensation reforms, the Advisory Board makes recommendations on Commission appointments to the Governor.
Chairman Jutila holds a B.A. degree in Political Science from the University of Minnesota and a J.D. degree from John Marshall Law School. Chairman Jutila also served as an arbitrator at the Chicago Commission since September 2004. He has over 29 years of practical experience in workers’ compensation as an attorney primarily representing injured workers.
As an attorney, Jutila has a broad range of experience at all levels of workers compensation practice, appellate practice and 3rd party negligence practice bringing a well rounded perspective and depth of prior case law to the Chair of the Commission. His knowledgeable and practical legal background will provide the Commissioners and members of the Commission with an invaluable resource.
Chairman Jutila's talents in both personal persuasion and leadership should gain cooperation from Commission staff and practicing attorneys from both sides of the isle.
As a practicing Chicago workers compensation attorney we more than welcome the appointment.
Chicago Workers Compensation Attorneys -- http://wc-chicago.com 9-10-08