Lyssa Eigenmann v. Northern Lights Eastern Maine Medical Center
Eastern Maine Group
September 26, 2023
CategoriesPost-Injury Earnings Partial Benefits / Refusal of Employment Partial Benefits / Refusal of Employment Post-Injury Earnings
Summary from the Troubh Heisler Attorneys
Eigenmann v. Northern Lights EMMC- The Appellate Division rejected the employer’s appeal that the ALJ erred by concluding its termination of employment because Ms. Eigenman refused to undergo the Covid vaccination did not constitute a refusal of a bona fide offer of reasonable employer, thereby precluding an award of incapacity benefits under 39-A M.R.S.A. sec. 214(1)(A). In Eigenmann, Me. W.C.B. Dec. No. 23-13 (App. Div. 2013), Ms. Eigenmann injured her left elbow in 2021 while working as a technician. She continued work with accommodations. Maine CDC regulations then required that all workers in health care settings receive Covid vaccinations and Ms. Eigenmann refused on religious grounds. Northern Lights terminated her employment. She did not return to work or look for work. Ms. Eigenmann filed a petition for award seeking total incapacity benefits. The ALJ rejected the employer’s argument that because an existing employment relationship implicitly constitutes a continued offer of employment, Ms. Eigenmann’s conduct in refusing the vaccination constituted a refusal of a continued bona fide offer of reasonable employment without good and reasonable cause. The ALJ awarded partial incapacity based on an imputed full time minimum wage earning capacity but denied the request to include an automatic reduction based on statutory increases in the minimum wage.
The Appellate Division agreed that existing employment constitutes an implicit offer of ongoing employment within the meaning of sec. 214(1)(A). But it held that subsection was not applicable because Ms. Eigenmann’s employment was terminated. She did not resign. There was no offer of ongoing employment and no offer was refused. The panel also held that the ALJ was not compelled to include automatic reductions in incapacity benefits based on future increases in the minimum wage, citing prior decisions holding that an increase in the minimum wage alone, may be insufficient to constitute a change in circumstances.