In Washington District 50 Schools v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, (No. 3-08-0923WC Oct. 16, 2009), the Court affirmed a Workers’ Compensation Commission finding that ruled a school teacher that was paid an annual salary of $40,416.48 will have an average weekly wage of $1,036.32, based on the number of weeks (39) that she actually worked rather than the number of weeks that she was paid (52). The teacher had two options for receiving her salary: (1) payments spread out over the 52-week calendar year or (2) payments during the 39-week school year only. The teacher chose the first option and received checks the year round even though she did not perform any work for the school district during the 13 summer weeks.
The Court reasoned that its decision turned on statutory construction, specifically the application of the third method for calculating average weekly wage in section 10 of the Act; “Where the employment prior to the injury extended over a period of less than 52 weeks, the method of dividing the earnings during that period by the number of weeks and parts thereof during which the employee actually earned wages shall be followed.”
The Court indicated that the time for which the petitioner was retained to work prior to her injury extended over a period of 39 weeks, which the Court ruled “defined” her employment, even though she was paid over a period of 52 weeks.
Employees, specifically teachers, in Illinois that are hired to work for a time period of less than 52 weeks in a 12-month period will have their salaries “apportioned” for workers’ compensation purposes for the time period that they actually work, regardless of the time period that they are paid. It will be interesting to see how this ruling may apply to seasonal construction workers or firefighters who work approximately 10-12 days a month rather than the 20-22 days per month of a normal 5-day/40-hour workweek. Pursuant to the Court’s ruling in the above case, firefighters now have an argument that their “apportioned” salaries for AWW purposes should be doubled.