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Compliance Analysis: N.Y. Voluntary Withdrawal from Labor Market

26 Jun, 2023 Chris Parker

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Albany, NY (WorkersCompensation.com) -- Generally, a claimant who voluntarily withdraws from the labor market is not entitled to workers' compensation benefits. The claimant will have to demonstrate that her disability caused or contributed to the withdrawal—a task that is not easy, especially in court.

General Rules Governing Voluntary Withdrawal

A claimant who voluntarily withdraws from the labor market is not entitled to workers' compensation benefits, unless she shows that the disability:

(1) Caused the retirement; or
(2) Contributed to her retirement.

If an employee is laid off from her job, she obviously didn’t willingly withdraw from that job. However, she may be considered to voluntarily withdraw from the labor market if she continues to be unemployed—unless she can show her injury prevented her from going back to work.

Judicial Standard for Reviewing the Board’s Decisions about Withdrawal

When a Workers’ Compensation Board finds that claimant voluntarily withdrew, and the claimant appeals, the original decision is likely to stick.

This is because the issue of whether a claimant voluntarily withdrew from the labor market is a factual issue. That means that a court won’t reverse it, as long as there is substantial evidence to support the decision.

Impact of Medical Advice

One way a claimant may be able to show her withdrawal from the workplace was not voluntary is by pointing to medical records, or testimony, demonstrating that her doctors advised her to stop working because of her disability, or consistently informed her that she was totally disabled.
If the claimant is only partially disabled, then, if she is seeking workers’ compensation benefits, she must also be actively seeking employment.

Timing of Medical Opinion

For a claimant to demonstrate that her disability prevented her from obtaining work because she had a total disability, a doctor’s opinion to that effect must coincide with the period for which the employee is seeking benefits. So, if the employee fails to search for a job for six months, but a doctor only finds that she is totally disabled after that six-month period, the doctor’s opinion is unlikely to help her show that she did not voluntarily withdraw during those six months.

Case Example

In a recent case, Saporito v. Office of Court Administration, No. 534851 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. App. Div. 06/02/23), a former court reporter failed to convince an appeals court that remaining unemployed after hurting her back at work years earlier wasn’t her choice. The claimant testified that she stopped working because of severe back pain and the inability to carry or move the equipment required for her work.

The court refused to reverse the Board’s decision, finding that the claimant’s testimony was often inconsistent and was not supported by the evidence.

“[I]n deciding to not look for work, she relied upon the fact that "all the doctors" who had examined her had allegedly told her that she was "[100%] disabled,” the court wrote. The court acknowledged that the claimant submitted medical evidence indicating that she had a temporary total disability during various times during the lengthy period for which she was seeking benefits.

However, some of the medical records showed that she only had a partial disability. Some of the medical records were also incomplete. “Further, there are lengthy gaps in the record — some spanning years — where no medical evidence of any disability was provided,” the court wrote.

Given the inconsistencies in the claimant's testimony, as well as the significant gaps in medical evidence, the court found that substantial evidence supported the Board's conclusion that claimant's initial separation from employment and her continued unemployment thereafter were voluntary and not due to her disability.


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