Under “Act 632/534,” employees of Pennsylvania State Penal or Correctional Institutions injured "by an act of any inmate or any person confined in such institution or by any person who has been committed to such institution” are entitled to receive their full salary until they are able to return to their regular employment.
Though such employees retain their right under the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act, any workers' compensation paid to them are to be turned over to the Commonwealth and paid into the general fund. “Full salary” does not include overtime or shift differential, though employees receive 100 percent their salaries. Under the Workers' Compensation Act, injured workers receive approximately 66 2/3 percent of their salary, but the Workers' Compensation Act does include shift differential and overtime income.
Act 632/534 applies to employees of:
1. Any state penal, correctional institution, mental hospital or youth development center under the Department of Public Welfare;
2. County boards of assistance who are injured by an act of an applicant for or recipient of public assistance; and
3. The Department of Public Welfare who are assigned to or who have volunteered to join the firefighting force of any institution of the Department of Public Welfare and who are injured while carrying out firefighting duties.
Act 632/534 benefits are not the same as Heart and Lung Act benefits, which provide for the payment of full salary a variety of state employees temporarily disabled due to a work injury. Employees can be eligible for Heart and Lung Act benefits and Act 632/534 benefits at the same time, but may collect only one benefit. Under the Heart and Lung Act, if an employee's disability is permanent, they are no longer entitled to receive benefits. Under Act 632/534, there is no such limitation but you must be injured by an act of an inmate.
Act 632/534 attorneys must try cases pursuant to the State Administrative Law Act. Pennsylvania workers' compensation judges do not have jurisdiction to hear these cases. Injured employee denied benefits may request that the institution schedule a hearing on the employee's entitlement to Act 632/534 benefits. If disability is not at issue, the principle dispute is whether a particular condition resulted from an "act of an inmate." If an Act 632/534 lawyer requests a hearing on behalf of an injured or disabled employee and the employer refuses to grant a hearing, the employee has a right to file an appeal directly to the Commonwealth Court. If the court rules that the employee is entitled to a hearing, the matter will be sent back to the employer with directions to schedule a hearing.
Sometimes an employee receiving Acts 632/534 benefits will have an administrative law action filed against them to end benefits based on the contention that they have recovered from their work injury.
In general, it is best not to have an Administrative Law Judge outside of the workers' compensation system make a ruling on whether an employee has recovered in full. Workers' Compensation Judges are much more likely to rule in favor of an injured claimant. In fact, the law under the Workers' Compensation Act is designed to give an advantage to injured claimants.
It is sometimes best to negotiate a deal with the employer to end Act 632/534 benefits while maintaining the right to receive workers' compensation benefits. The administrative proceeding will then take place in front of a Workers' Compensation Judge, where you're more likely to get a fair shake. There will be a reduction in your benefits, but it is probably worth the risk.