What happens if you are injured at work and not only are you unable to perform the job you were doing when you hurt yourself, your injuries also prevent you from working a second job that you held? In workers’ compensation, this is called “concurrent employment,” and if this applies to you, it’s important that you understand the law.
Let’s use a hypothetical to explain how this works. Suppose you work a full-time day job, Monday through Friday, in a warehouse, lifting and carrying crates of food. To earn extra money, you work another job nights and weekends, cleaning offices. You work 40 hours a week doing the warehouse job and 20 hours a week doing the office-cleaning job.
Now let’s say that you are unfortunate enough to injure your neck and back while carrying a heavy crate of meat at your first job. You are in excruciating pain, and MRIs show that you have herniated discs in both your neck and back. Because of these injuries, you are unable to do your warehouse job and office-cleaning job. You might assume that you’re only entitled to workers’ compensation wage loss benefits for the job on which you sustained your injuries. Luckily for you, that’s not the law. You are entitled to money for lost wages for any other jobs that you were working at the time that you injured yourself and which you are disabled from performing as a result of your injuries.
So if you were earning $700.00 per week doing your day job and $250.00 per week doing your nights & weekend job, your weekly workers’ comp. rate would be based on $950.00 – the sum of your wages at the two jobs. This is considered your “average weekly wage” under Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law. You would be entitled to 2/3 of $950.00 – or $633.33 per week in workers’ comp. benefits. If only the wages from your warehouse job are considered, you would receive $166.66 less per week – 2/3 x $700.00 = $466.67. This holds true even if you injured yourself while doing your office-cleaning job instead of the warehouse job. Although this is your second job, nevertheless you would be entitled to lost wages for that job and your full-time job at the warehouse.
Let’s switch up the hypothetical and see what happens. Suppose that after you injured yourself at the warehouse, you are cleared for part-time, light-duty work, and your boss at the warehouse offers you a desk job, four hours per day five days per week, paying $350.00 per week, half of your usual wages. Because there is no light-duty available at your second job, you don’t return to that job. Under this scenario, you would be entitled to partial disability benefits, receiving 2/3 of the difference between your average weekly wage and wages earned doing the part-time, light-duty work ($950.00 – $350.00 = $600.00), multiplied by 2/3, which yields $400.00. Therefore, your wages of $350.00 would be supplemented by $400.00 in workers’ comp. benefits.
It’s important that you understand you are only entitled to additional compensation for a second job if you actually held that job at the time of your injury. If you had been doing the office-cleaning job for two years, but quit a month before you injured yourself at the warehouse, you would not be able to collect additional workers’ comp. benefits because you would not be concurrently employed at the time of your injury.
By the same token, you would not be considered concurrently employed if you had not yet actually started the second job but intended to start it a week or two weeks after your injury. Once again, the law would not work in your favor. Even though you may have the expectation that you would start this job and earn extra money, and your neck and back injuries have prevented you from beginning the job, you still would not be entitled to additional workers’ comp. benefits – you could only receive benefits for your lost wages from your first job.
Another thing to keep in mind is that in order to receive workers’ comp. benefits for a second job (or a first job for that matter), you must be in an employee-employer relationship. If instead of cleaning offices for a janitorial company, you have your own business power-washing houses on the side and earn an extra $400.00 per week doing this work. Because this is considered self-employment, you would not be entitled to additional money even if your injuries prevent you from doing your power-washing work.
If you injure yourself at work, no matter how many jobs you have – one, two, or three – you need a highly competent and experienced workers’ comp. lawyer to represent you zealously and ensure that you receive all of the benefits to which you are entitled. At Pearson Koutcher Law, we regularly handle cases with concurrent employment issues – and any other issues that your case might present. Please call us right away for a free consultation with one of our top workers’ comp. lawyers.