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Minturn v. School District No. 401 Pierce County

August 9, 1996

MARY ANN MINTURN AND THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND INDUSTRIES, APPELLANTS,
v.
SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 401 PIERCE COUNTY, RESPONDENT.



Superior Court of Pierce County. Superior Court Docket No. 92-2-06355-2. Date Filed In Superior Court: July 26, 1993. Superior Court Judge Signing: Waldo Stone.

As Corrected October 25, 1996.

Written By: Morgan, J. Concurred IN By: Bridgewater, J., Turner, J.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morgan

MORGAN, J. -- The Department of Labor and Industries appeals a superior court determination that a school bus driver's compensation for temporary total disability should be computed under RCW 51.08.178(2), and not under RCW 51.08.178(1). We agree with the superior court's result.

In the 1980's, Pierce County School District No. 401 hired Mary Ann Minturn as a school bus driver. Several years later, on January 4, 1990, she was injured on the job.

Minturn worked only during the traditional school year (September to June). She was paid, however, throughout the calendar year. Each month, including the summer months, she received one-twelfth of her annual earnings.

During the 1988-89 school year (September to June), Minturn worked 1373.75 hours at a rate of $9.58 per hour. Thus, her school-year earnings were about $13,300, and she was paid about $1100 each month of the calendar year, including the summer months. By January 4, 1990, the date of her injury, her rate of pay had increased to $9.95 per hour.

After Minturn's injury, the Department computed her temporary total disability benefits, also called time loss compensation, as follows:

Review of the wage information indicates that claimant's time loss should be calculated on hours worked for the school year 1988-89, total hours 1,373.75, times hourly wage of $9.95 = $13,668.81 divided by contracted days of 185 = $73.885 (per day) X 22 (work days) = $1,625.48 (gross wage per month) X (conjugal status) 69% = $1,121.58 (time loss rate per month). [ *fn1 ]

This method of computation had at least two effects. First, it treated Minturn as being employed only 8.4 months per year (185 work days per year, divided by 22 work days per month, equals 8.4 months). Second, it treated Minturn as earning all of her wages during those 8.4 months ($13,668 in annual wages, divided by 8.4 months, equals approximately $1,625 in monthly wages).

The Department ordered the District, a self-insured employer, to pay time loss compensation according to these calculations. The District appealed to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, arguing that Minturn's monthly wages should be considered to be one-twelfth of her annual income, or about $1100 per month. An administrative law Judge accepted the District's argument and recommended reversal of the Department's order. The Board affirmed the Department's order by 2-1 vote.

The District appealed again, this time to superior court. That court accepted the District's argument and reversed. *fn2 The Department then filed this appeal.

Presently, the parties agree that the Department properly ordered the District to pay Minturn 69% of her monthly wages. RCW 51.32.060(1)(c). They further agree that the Department was obligated to calculate monthly wages in accordance with RCW 51.08.178. They dispute, however, whether the calculation ...


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