Julie D. Halvorson, Respondent,
B&F Fastener Supply and Selective Insurance Group, Relators.
Compensation Court of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts
Timothy J. McCoy, McCoy, Peterson & Jorstad, Ltd.,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, for respondent.
Elizabeth Chambers-Brown, Brown & Carlson, P.A.,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, for relators.
Minnesota Statutes § 176.102, subd. 6(a) (2016), which
addresses an employee's initial eligibility for
rehabilitation services, does not provide an independent
mechanism for an employer to terminate rehabilitation
Minnesota Rule 5220.0100, subps. 22 and 34 (2015), does not
allow an employer to terminate an employee's
appeal from the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals
(WCCA) requires us to determine when, and under what
circumstances, an employer may terminate an employee's
rehabilitation benefits. Relying on the definition of
"qualified employee" in an administrative rule, the
compensation judge concluded that an employee was no longer
eligible for rehabilitation benefits because she had obtained
"suitable gainful employment." See Minn.
R. 5220.0100, subps. 22, 34 (2015). The WCCA reversed,
holding that an employer must show "good cause"
before terminating rehabilitation benefits. Halvorson v.
B&F Fastener Supply, No. WC15-5869, 2016 WL 3251720,
*6-7 (Minn. WCCA May 9, 2016) (citing Minn. Stat. §
176.102, subd. 8(a) (2016), and Minn. R. 5220.0510, subp. 5
(2015)). Because we agree with the WCCA that the compensation
judge applied the wrong legal standard in granting the
employer's petition to discontinue rehabilitation
services, we affirm.
relevant facts are undisputed. Respondent Julie Halvorson
sustained an injury to her right elbow and both knees while
working for relator B&F Fastener Supply. A compensation
judge awarded workers' compensation benefits to
Halvorson, including rehabilitation services, which consisted
of vocational assistance intended to return Halvorson to a
job in her field or in another area that could
"produce an economic status as close as possible"
to her pre-injury employment. Minn. Stat. § 176.102,
subd. 1(b) (2016). In accordance with the compensation
judge's decision, B&F and its insurer, Selective
Insurance Group (collectively "B&F"), paid for
Halvorson's wage losses, treatment expenses, and
rehabilitation services arising out of the injury. Halvorson
eventually obtained part-time employment with another
employer, which prompted B&F to seek the discontinuation
of Halvorson's rehabilitation services.
filed a request to discontinue rehabilitation services with
the Workers' Compensation Division of the Department of
Labor and Industry. See Minn. Stat. § 176.106
(2016). The request claimed that Halvorson was no longer a
"qualified employee" entitled to receive
rehabilitation benefits because she had returned to
"suitable gainful employment" with another
employer. See Minn. R. 5220.0100, subps. 22, 34
(defining "qualified employee" and "suitable
gainful employment"). After the Workers'
Compensation Division denied B&F's request, B&F
requested a formal hearing before a compensation judge.
See Minn. Stat. § 176.106, subd. 7(a).
outset of the hearing, B&F advised the compensation judge
that the only two issues for decision were (1) "whether
[Halvorson] is a qualified employee for rehabilitation
services"; and (2) "whether she has returned to
suitable gainful employment such that she would be precluded
from receiving ongoing rehabilitation services."
Halvorson agreed with B&F's statement and
specifically noted that, under Minn. R. 1420.2150, subd. 2(c)
(2015), the hearing was limited to the issues that B&F
had raised in its request to the Workers' Compensation
compensation judge granted B&F's request, concluding
that Halvorson was no longer a "qualified employee"
in light of her part-time job, which had eliminated the need
for further rehabilitation services. The WCCA, in reversing
the compensation judge, declined to evaluate whether
Halvorson's part-time job constituted "suitable
gainful employment" or whether she continued to be a
"qualified employee." See Halvorson, 2016
WL 3251720, at *7. Rather, the WCCA determined that every
request to terminate rehabilitation services is subject to
the "good cause" standard in Minn. Stat. §
176.102, subd. 8(a), and Minn. R. 5220.0510, subp. 5, neither
of which the compensation judge considered in terminating
Halvorson's rehabilitation benefits. Id. In
light of the compensation judge's improper reliance on
the definitional provisions of an administrative rule, Minn.
R. 5220.0100, subps. 22, 34, and B&F's decision not
to have its request evaluated under the "good
cause" standard, the WCCA held that B&F was not
entitled "to terminate [Halvorson's] rehabilitation
benefits." Id. B&F now seeks review of the
WCCA's decision by writ of certiorari.
task in this appeal is to identify what legal standard
governs a request to terminate rehabilitation benefits
awarded to an employee as part of a compensable workers'
compensation injury. Rehabilitation services are a vocational
benefit to assist an injured employee in "return[ing] to
a job related to the employee's former employment or to a
job in another work area" that provides the employee
with "an economic status as close as possible to"
what the employee would have had "without [the]
disability." Minn. Stat. § 176.102, subd. 1(b). To
receive rehabilitation services, an employee must first meet
with a qualified rehabilitation consultant, who develops a
plan for services if the "consultation indicates that
rehabilitation services are appropriate." Id.,
subds. 4(a), (e) (2016). If an employee is eligible to
receive rehabilitation services, the compensation judge then
approves, modifies, or rejects the plan developed by the
qualified rehabilitation consultant. Id., subd. 6(a)
(2016). Following the approval and implementation of a plan
for rehabilitation services, an employer or insurer may
request the termination of the plan based on "a showing
of good cause." Id., subd. 8(a).
parties disagree on the procedure for terminating
rehabilitation services. B&F, consistent with the
compensation judge's decision, argues that two
definitional provisions-one defining "qualified
employee, " Minn. R. 5220.0100, subp. 22, and the other
defining "suitable gainful employment, "
id., subp. 34-permit the compensation judge to
terminate rehabilitation services. Halvorson, who agrees with
the WCCA's approach, views the good-cause standard, as
defined in Minn. Stat. § ...