Workers’ Compensation – World Trade Center Responder (2009)
Workplace exposure to toxins and irritants can contribute to many different lung diseases. Conditions at work may significantly worsen asthma, for instance, or cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, lung cancer, lung infections and fibrotic lung disease. Workers who suffer from lung-related injuries and diseases based on conditions at their workplace are entitled to workers’ compensation.
Our client was employed as an auditor for the City of New York. After the September 11, 2001 attack, she was assigned “to write checks that provided disaster funds to various individuals who had suffered immediate financial impact from the attack.” She performed these duties 7 days a week at two different locations in lower Manhattan, and later developed respiratory problems.
We filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits under Article 8-A of the Workers’ Compensation Law, which provided benefits for “rescue, recovery and clean-up” workers in lower Manhattan who became ill later on. Although a Workers’ Compensation Law Judge found in favor of our client, the Workers’ Compensation Board reversed the judge’s decision, fidning that she was not a “rescue, recovery or clean-up” worker and that she was therefore not covered by the law.
We appealed the Board’s decision and the Appellate Division, Third Department reversed, holding that the Board had failed to consider the entire statute in denying the claim, and that it needed to consider separately whether our client’s work was rescue or recovery or clean-up. The Board then concluded that her work did qualify as “recovery,” and that she could be protected by the law.