In Mueller v. LIRC (2018AP707), the Court of Appeals District III held that employees must show actual wage loss attributable to a work-related injury in order to be eligible for temporary disability worker’s compensation benefits. Employees may not receive temporary disability if they voluntarily retire, nor if subsequent attempts to re-enter the labor market are not impaired by a work-related injury.
Janet Mueller was injured when working for Ashley Furniture. Ashley placed Mueller on light duty with supplemental temporary partial disability benefits. Four months later, Mueller retired. Shortly after her retirement, Mueller reapplied for employment at Ashley but was not rehired. Mueller later found a part-time retirement job at a café.
Mueller filed this lawsuit seeking worker’s compensation benefits from Ashley during her retirement and during several months of her new part-time job. The court upheld the Labor & Industry Review Commission’s (LIRC) decision finding that Mueller could not show an actual wage loss entitling her to benefits because her voluntary retirement from Ashley was unrelated to her injury.
Alternatively, Mueller argued that her attempts to re-enter the labor market after retirement showed an actual wage loss entitling her to benefits. The court upheld the LIRC decision finding that Mueller showed no evidence her attempts to re-enter the labor market were impaired by a work-related injury. The record showed Ashley declined to hire Mueller because better applicants applied, and Mueller voluntarily chose to work part-time at the café.