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Christopher McVeigh of McVeigh? Skiff, Burlington, for Plaintiff—Appellant. Jeffrey T. Dickson and Keith J. The issue in this case is whether employer-paid health insurance premiums must be included when calculating an injured employee's average weekly wage under the Vermont Workers' Compensation Act. We affirm. The underlying facts of this case are undisputed. Claimant is a d practical nurse who was employed by defendant, Trustaff, Inc. While on duty, a patient attacked claimant, causing her to suffer, among other things, an acute cervical sprain.

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Defendant accepted responsibility for the physical injuries sustained by claimant, finding them compensable under workers' compensation. Three days after the injury, claimant returned to work but was restricted to desk duty. Unfortunately, defendant had no available desk jobs. Claimant left defendant's employ shortly thereafter and moved to Arizona, where she obtained employment at a long-term care facility.

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Claimant worked in various capacities at the facility until November when her treating physician recommended that she stop working on of her cervical injury. At that point, defendant began paying claimant temporary total disability benefits under Vermont Workers' Compensation Act.

See 21 V. Based on administrative interpretations of the statute, the Commissioner concluded that employer-provided health insurance premiums are not part of an employee's wages and therefore are not part of the claimant's average weekly wage computation. Hannaford Bros.

Based on the Pelissier decision, the Commissioner also concluded that the interpretation was not appropriate for alteration by administrative fiat and that any such change was better left for the Legislature. This appeal followed. For over twenty years, the Commissioner has denied requests to incorporate employer-paid health insurance premiums into the worker's average weekly wage calculation. Green Mountain Steel Erectors, No. NSA Indus. Edlund Co. Letourneau v.

Our examination of the Commissioner's interpretation of the statute begins with the plain language of the Act. An injured worker's weekly compensation is based on the claimant's average weekly wage. When construing woman seeking nsa mc veigh, our primary goal is to give effect to the Legislature's intent. Gallipo v. City of Rutland, Vt. Dep't of Taxes, Vt. Thus, the plain and ordinary meaning of the phrase does not resolve the question presented.

See In re Margaret Susan P. Though there was little uniformity among the various acts in the early s, most laws compensated employees for the core, nonfringe benefits of housing, food, and fuel. Vermont followed suit. Vermont's Workers' Compensation Act emerged in when Vermont's economy depended on a large labor workforce and it was common for employers to provide lodging for those who toiled in the granite quarries, marble fields, and textile mills, among other industries.

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Sherman, et al. As part of the worker-protection momentum, the Legislature enacted the workers' compensation law, which provided payments to widows and children of men killed in industrial accidents and payment of medical and hospital costs to employees injured on the job.

Health insurance, as it exists today, did not develop until the late s, when a group of school teachers began to make small monthly payments to a hospital for future medical care. See S. Health L. Even though there were some industries, such as lumber and railroad, that provided accident coverage to their workers early on, employer-paid health insurance did woman seeking nsa mc veigh become commonplace until World War II when labor was in high demand and woman seeking nsa mc veigh were looking for ways to attract workers without going over the federally imposed wage cap. For purposes of the wage cap, health insurance was not defined as a wage.

Because the health-insurance system was not in place when the Legislature defined wages inand because the Legislature has not amended the definition to include employer-paid health insurance after it developed into a customary benefit, it is prudent to conclude that such a benefit was not intended to be part of an employee's average weekly wage. An employee is not paid for her work with health insurance; rather, health insurance is a fringe benefit of employment. The definition of wages implies a payment actually received by an employee—it more closely refers to the actual earnings of the worker.

Claimant's argument conflates employers' costs with employees' remuneration. The U. Supreme Court has rejected this approach.

In Morrison—Knudsen Construction Co. Though the funds were intended for the benefit of the worker, as a means by which the company provided life insurance, health insurance, retirement benefits and career training for the employees, they were not, according to the Court, a part of the employee's wages. The same can be said of Vermont's workers' compensation law.

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The employer's cost in providing health insurance measures neither the employee's benefit nor his compensation. Employer health insurance rates are based on the plans offered, which can vary tremendously. The costs are not tied to the employee's labors and instead are based on factors unconnected to the employee. The existence of the insurance and the calculation of the employer's contribution to it does not equate to a measurement of the benefit to the employee.

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While the employer may contribute a set figure for the coverage, the employee may enjoy medical services that far exceed the cost to the employer or, if lucky in health, the employee may never gain any tangible benefit from the coverage. As such, we find that the employer's contribution for health insurance, though determinable, does not accurately reflect the employee's labors or compensation as defined through wages.

Claimant challenges the relevance of the Morrison—Knudsen decision and attempts to distinguish her case from the federal counterpart based on a slight difference in language between the Longshore Act and the language of Vermont's Workers' Compensation Act. In Morrison—Knudsen, the Court consulted the statute's legislative history and found no evidence indicating that Congress intended wages to include employer contributions to benefit plans. See U.

Similarly, the Court recognized that while fringe benefits had become a common feature in American workplaces, their lack of inclusion in the original and amended enactments of the Longshore Act illustrated Congress's intent to exclude these benefits from the Act's wage woman seeking nsa mc veigh.

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It further acknowledged that the Act. Rather, it was deed to strike a balance between the concerns of the longshoremen and harbor workers on the one hand, and their employers on the other The Court also relied on the Department of Labor's prior determinations that excluded fringe benefits from wages. We find the Court's rationale in Morrison—Knudsen persuasive. Both claimant and employer look to other states to resolve this issue.

We are reluctant to rely too heavily on these narrow imports from other jurisdictions because of the variety of statutory schemes and purposes. See State v.

There is a split of authority with respect to whether fringe benefits are wages for the purpose of workers' compensation. Lazarus v. Comm'n of Ariz. Alternatively, many states have left the matter to the legislature. See Groover v.

Johnson Controls World Serv. Bradlick Co. Given the array of statutory language interpreted in these cases, it is unsurprising they have reached divergent. She is correct. Inthe Colorado Court of Appeals interpreted its statute to include health insurance, reasoning that health and life insurance have ificant value that cannot be excluded as part of the wages received by the employee.

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See Murphy v. Ampex Corp. Following the court's lead, the Colorado legislature adopted a statute that expressly included health insurance premiums as part of the wage calculation; however, it offset any potential windfall to the claimant by eliminating other fringe benefits.

See Colo. Claim Appeals Office, 26 P. Unlike the Colorado Court of Appeals, this Court will not judicially legislate what would amount to a large increase in compensation costs.

Well aware of the delicate balancing involved in workers' compensation, had the Legislature intended wages to include payments made to third parties on behalf of employees for the purpose of acquiring health insurance, it could have so stated. SeeNo. While the workers' compensation law is to be construed liberally to accomplish the humane purpose for which it was passed, we must also remember that the law serves the dual purposes of providing an expeditious remedy for injured employees independent of proof of fault, and of offering employers a liability which is limited and determinate.

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Quinn v. Pate, Vt. If the definition of average weekly wage is to be expanded to include such value, it is a question for the Legislature, and one that requires robust legislative debate, affording various constituencies a voice in the matter.

It is not a matter for the judiciary.