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Can I Apply for a New Job While on Workers' Comp?

SlechterLaw Firm, PLLC 
Injured Man Filling Form

Workers’ compensation is a nationwide system of providing protections for workers against workplace injuries from accidents and illnesses borne from toxic substances or allergens. It pays for medical treatment and ongoing care for employees who are injured at work or who fall ill due to workplace conditions. Workers’ comp is a no-fault system. Employees can’t sue employers, and employers can’t sue employees. Most employers will contract with a commercial insurance company to provide workers’ compensation, though it is possible to self-insure. 

When a worker files a workers’ compensation claim, it can fall into different categories: partial disability, total disability, temporary disability, and permanent disability. Many injuries, and even some illnesses, are resolved quickly, and the affected worker misses little or no time from work other than for doctor’s appointments. In fact, the system in Kentucky requires a worker to miss at least 8 days from the job to be compensated for lost wages. 

Sometimes, however, the injured or ill employee can face more longer-lasting conditions, in which case the terms Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) and Permanent Total Disability (PTD) apply. In partial disability, the affected employee may be capable of performing some type of work, but probably different from the work they did previously. In total disability, the affected employee may never be able to work again. 

The question, then, is if an employee cannot perform the duties of the job where they were injured or fell ill, can they pursue another job than the one where they suffered the injury or illness? How about if they were already working two jobs, and they were able to continue the second job but not the primary one that provided workers’ compensation insurance? 

The answer to these questions is contingent upon different factors, but the bottom line is that you must be straightforward with your workers’ compensation insurer. You cannot just accept another job to augment the benefits you’re getting from workers’ compensation without informing your employer and insurer.  

If you’re out on a workers’ compensation claim in or around Louisville, Kentucky, and you’re contemplating the issue of obtaining a second or alternative job, contact the workers’ compensation attorneys at the Slechter Law Firm, PLLC immediately.  

The issue of a second or alternative job can be tricky and also can be costly in terms of benefits if not handled correctly. Let the husband-wife legal team of Mr. and Mrs. Slechter review the circumstances of your claim and advise you of the best path forward. They also proudly serve clients in Lexington and throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky. 

Can You Get a New Job While on Workers’ Compensation?

This issue will probably arise only if you are on Permanent Partial Disability (PPD), which means your attending physician or medical group has determined you have reached the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI) and that you will still have a disability that may prevent you from returning to your former position. If you’re on Permanent Total Disability, your benefits will continue until you reach the age of Social Security eligibility. 

As an alternative to new employment, you may be able to obtain from your employer a position with “lighter duties” so that you can continue to work and receive pay. Workers’ compensation will continue to cover your medical care but compensation for lost wages may be adjusted or even discontinued. It all depends on your former wage and your new wage. 

If your employer cannot offer you a position with lighter duties, then a second or alternative job may be a valid option. It’s also important to remember that workers’ compensation does not contain a guarantee that your job will be available should you recover fully or even partially. Unlike the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there is no guarantee of returning to the same or an equivalent job. 

In addition, though your employer cannot terminate you because you went out on workers’ compensation, they can carry out a reduction in force that eliminates your job, or they can terminate you for a poor performance review.  

In fact, in an at-will employment environment, your employer can terminate you for any or no reason at all, so long it is not discriminatory or in retaliation for anything you legally sought, whether a charge filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a claim with workers’ compensation.  

If you have lost your job, you certainly can seek a new job if you are capable of performing the tasks required. You should still receive workers’ compensation medical coverage, but wage benefits may be modified or eliminated. 

What If You Already Had a Second Job?

If you were working both your full-time, workers’ compensation-covered position and also a part-time second job, questions can arise. If the second job is just answering phones on the weekends and nights to take orders, and your daytime job is hauling heavy packages throughout a warehouse, the second job may prove tenable and perhaps not a threat to your workers’ compensation claim. 

On the other hand, if you work in construction in the daytime and are injured, but you also have a job on weekends as a handyman and trash hauler, which you continue to work while receiving your workers’ compensation benefits, the insurance company can question how you can do that second job but not your first or primary job. The demands seem similar, if not the same. 

Notify, Notify, Notify—or Face Possible Penalties

If you do have a second job or are seeking a new position to augment your benefits and support your lifestyle, you need to make sure everyone is notified and involved, and this includes your attending physician or medical group, your primary employer, and your workers’ compensation insurer.  

Trying to hide things is not a valid alternative. If the insurer finds out (and they are famous for hiring private investigators to track you in public to see what you’re doing to prove you’re not as injured or ill as you claim), they can reduce or cancel your benefits, and the insurer can even demand repayment of benefits. 

Put Experienced Legal Counsel in Your Corner

When you’re involved in a workers’ compensation claim, the insurer can make challenging demands and even take to spying on you. Don’t post online pictures or videos of you out dancing in a nightclub or swimming in the Caribbean if you claim you cannot perform your warehouse duties. 

More importantly, rely on the experience and knowledge of seasoned workers’ compensation attorneys in every phase of your claim, and certainly when you’re considering the possibility of obtaining new or secondary employment. Your medical benefits should be honored, but benefits for lost wages may face adjustment or elimination. Everything is contingent on multiple factors. 

Reach out to the legal team at the Slechter Law Firm, PLLC immediately with all questions and concerns about employment issues and the continuance of your benefits. There are lots of “gray areas,” so you should pursue the best advice you can obtain.