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Maine WC Alert: Appellate Division Upholds Ruling on Reinstatement Provisions and Termination of Benefits

Maine Workers' Comp Alert

Maine WC Appellate Division Holds That Ongoing Noncompliance with Reinstatement Provisions in Section 218 Precludes Termination of Benefits for Expiration of Durational Cap Under 213

Section 218 of the Maine Workers’ Compensation Act provides: “When an employee has suffered a compensable injury, the employee is entitled, upon request, to reinstatement to the employee’s former position if the position is available and suitable to the employee’s physical condition. If the employee’s former position is not available or suitable, the employee is entitled, upon request, to reinstatement to any other available position suitable to the employee’s physical condition.” The right to reinstatement is not absolute; an employer need not make reasonable accommodations if it can demonstrate that, “no reasonable accommodation exists or that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer,” based on various factors.

Section 218(5) provides: “The employer's failure to comply with the obligations under this section disqualifies the employer or insurance carrier from exercising any right it may otherwise have to reduce or terminate the employee’s benefits under this Act. The disqualification continues as long as the employer fails to offer reinstatement or until the employee accepts other employment.

In Dube v. Twin Rivers Paper Co. (19-12 [April 25, 2019]), the WC Appellate Division held that an employer/insurer is not entitled to an order allowing it to discontinue partial incapacity benefits pursuant to the 520-week durational limit of section 213 when a prior decree has found that the employer/insurer must first comply with the reinstatement provisions of section 218.