(CN) – A Utah law that reduces workers’ compensation benefits to injured workers who also qualify for Social Security benefits is unconstitutional, the Utah Supreme Court ruled.
The justices reversed an appellate decision in a 2007 case. The petitioner, Nathan H. Merrill, was permanently disabled while working for Dakota Cabinets and filed a workers’ compensation claim. He was granted $395 per week in workers’ compensation payments.
But Dakota challenged the award, arguing that Utah law unconstitutionally reduces benefits based on age. Because he qualified for both workers’ compensation and Social Security, and received workers’ compensation for at least 312 weeks, his workers’ compensation benefits were cut to half his Social Security benefits.
The state high court said the state Legislature can’t classify individuals based on their receipt of federal Social Security retirement benefits, because this classification singles out individuals without a rational basis.
“[The law] violates Utah’s uniform operation of laws provision by unconstitutionally singling out and reducing workers’ compensation benefits of injured individuals over the age of sixty-five who qualify for Social Security retirement benefits,” Chief Justice Durham wrote.
“We declare the offset provision in the statute unconstitutional and reverse and remand for the court of appeals to enter an order in accordance with this opinion.”