Laid off while receiving Workers’ Comp Benefits
Let’s say that you work as a delivery driver, full-time, and injure your back while carrying a 50-pound box. The company doctor — known as the panel doctor in Workers’ Comp lingo — takes you out of work and orders an MRI to your back, which you undergo. The insurance company for your employer begins to pay you Workers’ Comp benefits, called total disability benefits because you are totally disabled, unable to work at all.
Two months later, after a course of physical therapy, your back improves and the panel doctor releases you to work, six hours per day, with no lifting of more than 25 pounds. Your employer accommodates these restrictions, and you return to your delivery driver position at reduced hours, lifting boxes that weigh 25 pounds or less. Because you’re working less hours than you were at the time of your injury, you’re losing money. We’ll say you’re losing $300 per week. You would be entitled to partial disability benefits in the amount of $200 per week, representing 2/3 of your weekly wage loss.
Now here’s where things can get tricky. Suppose that after you’re working the light-duty job for three months, you’re informed by your boss that due to downsizing at the company, you are being laid off. It isn’t any fault of yours — it’s just that business is slow, and you, as well as 10 other drivers, are laid off.
Fortunately, if this happens, the insurance company is required to reinstate you to total disability benefits at the same rate you were receiving after you were initially injured.
The result would be different, though, if your employer terminates you because you engaged in some type of misconduct — you stole from the company, or were driving the truck while under the influence of illegal drugs. Under this scenario, the loss of your employment and resultant loss of wages is not caused by your work injury, but by your misconduct, so you wouldn’t be entitled to Workers’ Womp. benefits.
Let’s look at a situation which is not as clear-cut. Suppose that because of your back injury, you call out of work some days and are not as productive as you were before the injury. You cannot lift boxes as quickly, and you have to take more breaks. You receive a written warning because of your absences and decreased productivity. Then you are fired. Under these circumstances, the insurance company may not voluntarily reinstate your Workers’ Comp benefits. Instead, they maintain that your decline in performance and missed days led to your termination. You could counter that by arguing that the absences and loss of productivity was caused completely by the effects of your work-related back injury. If the insurance company refuses to reinstate your benefits, you will need a lawyer to file a petition for you, which will be heard by a Workers’ Comp judge.
If you find yourself in this predicament — or any other predicament after injuring yourself at work, please contact Pearson Koutcher Law. Workers’ Comp is all we do, and one of our top-notch lawyers will meet with you, discuss your case in detail, and take the necessary legal action on your behalf.