What happens when your boss literally works you to death?

Everyone has used the phrase “this job is killing me” at one time or another in their life, but a three judge court panel in Pennsylvania took that saying one step further and ruled that is exactly what happened to one man from Levittown, PA. 

The incident that eventually led to the panel of judges ruling took place back in 2007. Robert Dietz, then 48, was an employee who had worked over 20 years for the Lower Bucks County Joint Municipal Authority. During that time he often worked very long days and was required to do such things as pull up tree roots, operate jackhammers and repair broken sewer lines; all these tasks can be very physically demanding.

In 2007 after approaching the end of a 14 hour shift, Mr. Dietz suddenly collapsed and died from what was later diagnosed as a heart attack. Naturally his wife and child asked for his job related death benefits to kick in so she would get 60% of his salary and the $3000 burial fee that they were then entitled too.

Her claim was initially granted but then surprisingly that decision was reversed and subsequently denied by the workers' compensation appeal board on the grounds that Mr. Dietz’s death could not be proved to be job related and he had a history of smoking over a pack of cigarettes per day over a long period of time. They argued that the evidence for the benefits claim was circumstantial at best and therefore the claim was not valid.

A disgruntled Mrs. Dietz was not ready to give up just yet and decided to pursue the matter further to get the benefits she felt her and her child rightly deserved. She decided to pursue the matter with a higher court. A key witness for Mrs. Dietz’s legal team, Dr. Larry A. Wolk, seemed to convince the three judge panel that the untimely death of Mr. Dietz could have definitely been work related.

Although Mrs. Dietz has been granted the death benefits she is still not out of the woods yet as Mr. Dietz former employer has 30 days with which to file an appeal of the judges’ decision.

The Fair Labor Standards Act sets provisions on the amount of overtime certain employees can work. For more information about the FLSA and to contact Catania, Mahon, Milligram and Rider's FLSA violation attorneys, visit our Wage & Hour Violations section.