A workplace accident may not just affect your ability to do your job. It can also make you rethink your working situation. This is why it’s not uncommon for injured workers to ask: “Can I get another job while on workers comp?”
Strictly speaking, you can. There is no law that prevents you from changing jobs or starting another job while receiving workers’ compensation. But it might not be the wisest course of action as doing so can affect your workers’ compensation benefits.
You see, workers’ compensation is designed to help injured workers meet their living expenses. It works under the assumption that said worker is not capable of doing their job or any other type of job for that matter. So if you get another job, that just means you’re capable of working and supporting yourself.
If you’re thinking of changing jobs because you have a feeling that your employer will fire you, fear not. By law, your employer cannot fire an employee just because you filed a workers’ comp claim. But this doesn’t mean you should slack off or get into trouble with them. They can still fire you for any valid reason other than your workers’ comp claim.
How Working Affects Your Workers Comp Benefits
Workers’ compensation is administered on a state level. So the rules and provisions can vary per state. But one thing is for sure no matter what state you’re in: working can affect your workers’ comp benefits. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a new job or you’re going back to the job you had before your injury. As long as you’re earning an income, you run the risk of getting your workers comp reduced or terminated.
However, you need to remember that worker’s compensation encompasses a number of benefits. In most states, getting approved for workers comp will entitle you to medical benefits and lost wages compensation.
If you get a new job, you’ll only risk losing your lost wages compensation and not your medical benefits. After all, it’s the insurance company that’s paying your benefits and not your employer. But as we said, the policies can vary per state.
In Florida for example, those who are receiving permanent total disability benefits who found a new job may not necessarily lose their benefits. Instead, they will be given an impairment rating which will become the basis of their new lost wages benefits. Their medical benefits, on the other hand, will remain unaffected.
If you’re thinking about not reporting your new job to your employer, don’t. Most insurance companies have investigators who are tasked to spy on people with workers’ comp claims. If they find out that you’re working but haven’t disclosed that fact to your employer, they can charge you with insurance fraud. Depending on the state, insurance fraud is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a penalty of up to $15,000.
What to Do Before Getting Another Job
There are a variety of reasons why an injured worker may consider a new job or a different career. It could be because of better working conditions or because your disability prevents you from doing your current job. Whatever it may be, the decision is all yours to make. But before you take the plunge, you should do the following:
1. Consider Your Medical Condition
You may feel well enough to work right now but going back to work may worsen your condition. So before changing jobs or starting a second one, make sure you have your doctor’s consent first.
If you lose your workers’ compensation benefits because you’re working and your medical condition worsened, you may not be able to get medical benefits again. Worse, it may result in a permanent disability that can keep you from doing any type of work forever.
2. Discuss Restrictions and Accommodations
If you start another job while still not fully recovered, your doctor will most likely issue work restrictions. This means that there are certain things you can’t do which can affect the kind of job you can take. For instance, if you hurt your back, your doctor may prohibit you from doing heavy lifting or any task that involves bending or picking up things from the ground.
You need to tell your new or prospective employer about such restrictions. Under the American Disabilities Act (ADA), employers should be able to provide a reasonable accommodation that would cater to a disabled employee’s work restrictions. This is to enable disabled employees to perform their tasks as effectively as everyone else. Reasonable accommodation, in this context, may include providing a ramp, reducing your working hours, or providing a screen reader software.
3. Talk to Your Lawyer
To know exactly how getting another job will affect your workers’ comp benefits, you should talk to your lawyer.
Since workers comp laws vary per state, the rules regarding getting another job while receiving workers comp can be complicated. Besides workers comp cases can vary widely. Even employees who have the same injury as yours and live within the same state may have different workers comp options than yours.
This is why it’s important to talk to experienced workers comp attorneys. They know your state’s workers comp laws so they’ll be able to tell you the best course of action for your case.
Getting Another Job With The Same Employer
Instead of getting another job with a different employer, you can try asking your current employer what their current employment options are. Again, the ADA states that employers should provide reasonable accommodation for their disabled workers. As such, your current employer should be able to provide you with a working condition more suitable to your condition. This includes offering you another job or transferring you to a different department.
Technically, there’s not much difference between working for the same or a different employer. The general rule of thumb is if you’re earning less than your average weekly wage prior to your injury, your benefits will only be reduced but it won’t completely stop. Consequently, if your new position pays better than your previous job, your benefits will cease.
What If I Took a Second Part-Time Job?
Yes, you can take a second part-time job in addition to the one you currently have. But as mentioned, if you’re earning equal to or more than your average weekly wage before your injury, your benefits will stop.
For instance, let’s say your average daily wage in your previous job was $1,000. Then you got injured and you’re back to work with light-duty restrictions. As a result, your company assigned you to a desk job that only pays $700 a week. To make ends meet, you took on a second part-time job where you earn an additional $300. This means your combined average weekly wage is now $1,000 – equivalent to your income before your injury. This also means you won’t be receiving workers comp benefits
What If I Already Have a Second Job at the Time of Your Injury?
Depending on the state and the severity of your injury, you may qualify for workers comp benefits from both jobs. Provided that the employer responsible for your injury knows about your second job.
But if you’re already receiving workers comp and continue to work on your second job, you may not be eligible for permanent or temporary total disability benefits. Being able to work at your second job means that you’re not entirely incapable of earning an income. Instead, you will only be eligible for partial disability benefits which, in most states, is considerably lesser. These benefits will continue until you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). Or if you are already earning equal to or more than what you were earning prior to your injury.
VICTOR MALCA LAW – A TRUSTED NAME IN FLORIDA
Victor Malca P.A. has over 25 years of litigation experience in Workers Compensation and Social Security Disability lawsuits. His experience and continued success in fighting for his clients puts among the most trusted workers’ compensation lawyers in Florida. Our area of expertise is in representing injured workers on compensation benefit cases and disabled individuals claim social security disability benefits.
Our unwavering advocacy for employee rights and privileges are recognized by our past clients across South Florida. Book a free consultation today.
About The Author
Judy Ponio is a writer for Victor Malca Law P.A. and enjoys helping people with questions about social security, workers compensation, and other serious matters involving people’s livelihood. She is not an attorney and her writing should not be considered legal advice.