11/8/2005

Hazardous Duty Benefits
What Are These Benefits All About?

Workers that are employed by the State of Connecticut and perform certain "hazardous" duties can select enhanced benefits known as "hazardous duty benefits" pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes §5-142(a) for compensable work related injuries. These "hazardous duty benefits" differ from the typical workers' compensation benefits that claimants who are not employed by the State of Connecticut are entitled to receive for compensable injuries pursuant to the Act.

The following article is a brief overview of these "hazardous duty benefits".

I. Who is eligible for hazardous duty benefits?

According to Connecticut General Statutes §5-142(a), those workers who fall into the following categories are eligible for "hazardous duty benefits":

1. any member of the division of the State police within the Department of public
Safety, or any correctional institution, or any institution or facility of the Department of Mental Health and Addictive Services giving care and treatment to persons afflicted with a mental disorder, or any institution for the care and treatment of person afflicted with any mental defects;

2. any full-time enforcement officer of the Department of Environmental Protection,
the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Consumer Protection who carries out the duties and responsibility of C.G.S. §30-68m, inclusive, the Office of Adult Probation, the Department of Public Works or the Board of Parole;

3. any probation officer for juveniles or any employee of any juvenile detention
home;

4. any member of the police or fire security force of the University of Connecticut or
Bradley International Airport;

5. any member of the Office of State Capitol Police or any person appointed under
C.G.S. §29-18 as a special police officer for the State Capitol building and grounds and the Legislative Office Building and parking garage and related structures and facilities and other areas under the supervision and control of the Joint Committee on Legislative Management;

6. the Chief State's Attorney, the Chief Public Defender, the Deputy Chief State's
Attorney, the Deputy Chief Public Defender;

7. any State's Attorney, any Assistant State's Attorney or Deputy Assistant State's
Attorney;

8. any Public Defender, any Assistant Public Defender or Deputy Assistant Public
Defender;

9. any chief inspector or inspector appointed under C.G.S. §51-268, or any staff
member or employee of the Division of Criminal Justice or of the Division of Public Defender Service; or

10. any Judicial Department employee.


II. How can an injured worker qualify for hazardous duty benefits under
C.G.S. §5-142(a)?

An injured worker must meet the following three prong test in order to qualify for hazardous duty benefits under C.G.S. §5-142(a):

1. at all times relevant, the injured worker was an enumerated employee of one of
the special classes of employees listed in the statute and

2. the injured worker was injured while making an arrest or in the actual
performance of such police duties or guard duties or fire duties or inspection duties or prosecution or public defender or courthouse duties, or while attending or restraining an inmate of any such institution or as a result of being assaulted in the performance of his or her duties, or while responding to an emergency code at a correctional institution and

3. the injured worker's injury was a direct result of the special hazards inherent in
such duties.

Prior to 1991, it was not necessary to meet the third element of the test to secure benefits under C.G.S. §5-142(a). In 1991, the Legislature enacted P.A. 91-339, Sec. 40 and limited C.G.S. §5-142(a) awards to injuries which were a direct result of the special hazards inherent in the worker's job duties.

Of note, however, the Legislature did not provide a definition of the requirement of "special hazards" in C.G.S. §5-142(a)(2). After P.A. 91-339 Sec. 40 was passed, it became necessary to distinguish hazardous duties from routine ones. As a result, C.G.S. §5-142(a) benefits may not be invoked unless the worker is directly injured by one of the unusually dangerous aspects of the job.

There are certain injuries that, even though they occur in the "actual performance" of police or guard duties, are not necessarily hazardous. In Bouchard v. State of Connecticut/Dept. of Mental Health and Addition, 4120 CRB-08-99-09 (July 28, 2000), the CRB reversed the Workers' Compensation Commissioner's finding and held that the injured worker's participation in a volleyball game, which included staff members and inmates of the hospital, did not legally transform the act of playing volleyball into an act "attending" to the inmates. Therefore, it was not deemed to be an inherently hazardous activity under C.G.S. §5-142(a).

In Johnson v. State/Dept. of Corrections, 4162 CRB-1-99-12 (January 25, 2001), aff'd, 67 Conn. App. 330 (2001), cert. granted, 259 Conn. 924 (2202), the CRB reversed an award of full salary benefits to a prison guard who injured himself while he caught an inmate who slipped while exiting the shower. The CRB held that the claimant was not "restraining" the inmate within the meaning of the statute. The CRB further noted that the claimant had acted instinctively and without the impression that the inmate was attempting to behave in a hostile manner that would have required the sort of "restraint" that is an especially hazardous component of prison guard duties.

In these types of situations, additional facts are necessary to establish whether the injury was caused by a risk peculiar to and associated with the hazardous duty component of the claimant's duties.


III. What benefits are hazardous duty employees eligible for under C.G.S. §5-142(a)?

In addition to payment of all necessary medical and hospital expenses resulting from such an injury that occurs in the course of their employment, if the hazardous duty employee is totally disabled from work, the employee is entitled to receive his or her full salary which s/he was receiving at the time of the injury, subject to all salary benefits of active employees, including annual increments and all salary adjustments, including salary deductions.

The hazardous duty employee's entitlement to his or her full salary for total incapacity is for a maximum period of 260 weeks (five years) from the beginning date of total incapacity.

After the 260 weeks (five years), the hazardous duty employee shall receive compensation at the rate of 50percent of their salary which s/he was receiving at the expiration of the 260 weeks, as long as s/he remains totally disabled. There is an exception to the 50percent rule that applies to a member of the Division of the State Police within the Department of Public Safety. A member of the Division of the State Police shall receive 65percent of their salary (as opposed to 50percent) which s/he was receiving after the 260 weeks so long as the employee remains totally disabled.

IV. Can a hazardous duty employee receive concurrent benefits pursuant to
C.G.S. §31-310 in addition to benefits pursuant to C.G.S. §5-142(a)?

No. A hazardous duty employee has the option of selecting between benefits provided by C.G.S. §5-142(a) and those benefits provided by C.G.S. §31-310 if concurrent employment is an issue.

In Trinkley v. Ella Grasso, 220 Conn. 739 (1992), the claimant, a state mental retardation aide, was attacked by a client and had been deemed totally disabled. The claimant suffered a compensable work related injury and elected her full salary pursuant to C.G.S. §5-142(a). The claimant was concurrently employed by the city of Waterbury earning $161.00 as an average weekly wage at the time of the injury. She sought concurrent employment benefits for two thirds of her average weekly wage from her concurrent employment to supplement her entitlement to her full salary. The Commissioner for the Fifth District awarded the claimant benefits for her concurrent employment. The State of Connecticut appealed the case and the CRD concluded that the claimant was not entitled to concurrent employment benefits because her remedy pursuant to C.G.S. §5-142 was an exclusive remedy.

The Supreme Court in Trinkley reversed the CRD's opinion that the claimant's exclusive remedy was C.G.S. §5-142. The Court relied upon the facts in Jones v. Mansfield Training School, 220 Conn. 721 (1992), where the Court held that an injured state employee who was eligible to receive enhanced benefits under Section 5-142 "may elect, alternatively, the receive workers' compensation benefits measured by her actual earnings under §31-307 when this alternate measurement would provide greater financial relief." Trinkley, 220 Conn. 739, 746 (1992).

However, the Court in Trinkley also noted that it was "equally unpersuaded by the claimant's argument that she may recover benefits under C.G.S. §3-310 in addition to the salary benefit afforded to her by 5-142". Trinkley, 220 Conn. 739, 748 (1992). Therefore, the Court in Trinkley held that "in accordance with Jones, the claimant may recover either her salary benefit under 5-142 (a) or the workers' compensation benefits to which any other state employee would be entitled, including the right to receive concurrent employment benefits under 31-310."
Id. at 747.


V. The Pros & Cons of Electing Benefits Pursuant to C.G.S. §5-142(a):

Pro: Hazardous Duty Employees are allowed their full salary during the period of
temporary total disability.

Con: No overtime pay, shift differentials or maintenance are allowed to compute the
full salary option.

Con: After the 260 weeks, the employee is only allowed
either 50percent or 65percent of the salary (depending upon their employment category as discussed above.

Con: Hazardous duty employees are not eligible for COLA increases because C.G.S.
§5-142 benefits do not implicate the maximum weekly compensation rate which is the basis for determining COLAs.

Con: Hazardous duty employees are not eligible to receive both their full pay pursuant
to C.G.S. §5-142 and concurrent employment benefits pursuant to
C.G.S. §31-310.

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