Being injured at work is a stressful situation, and it’s made even worse by the uncertainty that comes with it. A lot of people wonder whether they’ll be able to work again quickly or be offered light duty when they go on workers’ compensation, but few know the answers.
We want to help, and to do that we’re going to give you simple answers to sometimes complicated questions.
Can I work while I’m on workers’ compensation?
Some workplace injuries are so severe that the injured party is unable to work for months or even years. However, it is more common for employees to sustain injuries at work that, while not totally disabling, are partially disabling and make it difficult, if not impossible, to perform their previous job duties.
In these cases, injured workers are often only able to work part-time or must accept lower paying work.
Working Part-Time While You’re on Workers’ Compensation
Pennsylvania law requires all employers to purchase workers’ compensation insurance to ensure that employees who are injured on the job will be compensated for lost time and medical expenses. In cases where an injury results in a complete and permanent disability, the length of time that the employee can continue to receive workers’ compensation benefits will depend on a predetermined schedule of illnesses and injuries. In this way, the state attempts to award an amount that reflects an employee’s current medical bills, but also his or her future inability to earn the same income.
However, the injuries of many employees are not this severe, leaving them only partially disabled. In these cases, an injured employee may be able to work part-time for the same employer or for another employer who offers lower paying work that is within the range of tasks that the employee can complete. While this is permissible under Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation laws, it does mean that the number of benefits being received will be reduced and can actually jeopardize the claim itself.
These individuals can continue to receive workers’ compensation benefits but must comply with specific limitations. If you were injured at work and are only able to work part-time, it is important to speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.
About Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Benefits
When employees are injured on the job, they may be eligible to collect benefits through Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation program. Almost all employers are required to provide coverage, although certain employees are exempt, including:
- Volunteer workers
- Exempt religious institutions
- Exempt executive officers
- Independent contractors
- Agricultural laborers
- Domestic employees
Federal employees are also exempt, as they are covered under a separate workers’ compensation program. In certain cases, even non-exempt employees will not qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. Those who purposely cause their own injuries while at work, for example, are not eligible for workers’ compensation.
This also applies to employees who were injured in the workplace while:
- Under the influence of drugs
- Breaking the law
Except in these specific instances, injured workers will be eligible for medical benefits and replacement of lost wages, regardless of fault. However, the injured worker will need to comply with a series of rules when providing notice to an employer. For instance, employees must file a claim within 120 days or risk having it permanently barred. Furthermore, the longer an employee waits to report an injury, the harder it usually is to have it approved.
If a claim is approved, an injured worker is eligible to receive two-thirds of his or her average weekly wage, in addition to reimbursement for medical expenses, although the length of time that an injured employee can continue to receive workers’ compensation depends on the severity and type of injury. If, for instance, a person is totally disabled, his or her injury will be rated based on a predetermined schedule.
After 104 weeks have passed, an insurer can require the recipient to undergo a medical examination where a physician will assess the injured worker’s degree of disability. If the determination results in an impairment rating of more than 50%, the injured party can continue to receive benefits indefinitely. However, if the worker is found to be less than 50% impaired, he or she will be deemed partially disabled and can continue receiving benefits for up to 500 weeks.
What You Should Know About Workers’ Compensation Checks
Under the state’s workers’ compensation laws, injured employees who receive benefits must report any income they earn to their employer’s insurer. For example, if a person worked at a single job, he or she would only be required to report the salary from that source. However, someone who worked at two jobs and was injured while working at the primary place of employment would need to report both sources of income, even if the second job is only part-time.
Fortunately, under Pennsylvania law, insurers are required to take incomes from all forms of employment into account at the time the employee was injured. This means that even when an employee is injured at one job, the wages from both employers will be considered as if they were earned only from the employer who is liable for compensation. As a result, injured employees are eligible to collect two-thirds of the combined weekly wages from both jobs.
If an injured party is able to work on a full or part-time basis, whether for the primary employer or a secondary employer, he or she must immediately report this to the insurance company, which will then adjust the benefits accordingly to account for the additional income. This process was put in place to prevent what is referred to as double dipping, which occurs when an employee collects full benefits, while also collecting a paycheck from another job.
Working at another job or getting a new job while receiving workers’ compensation benefits is not always a good idea, as it may convince the primary employer that the injured worker is fully recovered and no longer requires benefits. However, this should not deter a person from reporting a second income, as a failure to do so could be perceived as a fraud on the part of the employee, which is punishable not only by a loss of benefits but also criminal penalties. Ultimately, whether a person should begin working part-time depends on the specific circumstances of his or her case.
If for example, a warehouse employee injured their shoulder while loading inventory and is not able to continue working in a job that requires lifting, he or she would not necessarily be completely barred from collecting workers’ compensation benefits for working part-time as a cashier where no lifting is required.
In these situations, it is more difficult for an employer to convince an insurer or the workers’ compensation board that the employee has completely healed and no longer requires benefits, especially if the employee is earning less than he or she did prior to the injury. It is important to note that if an employee accepts a job and begins making more money, payments for lost wages will be suspended.
Call an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today
While working part-time is not necessarily prohibited under Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation law, it can jeopardize the success of a claim. If you were injured at work, but are offered part-time employment at a less physically demanding job, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney before making a decision.