Receiving unemployment in addition to workers’ compensation benefits usually means that you’ll receive less than you usually would from unemployment in proportion to the workers’ compensation payments you’ve already received—and vice versa. Moreover, you usually cannot claim both benefits without one amount offsetting the other.
You can consult with a workers’ compensation lawyer who can help you determine your eligibility and simultaneously navigate the complex unemployment and legal processes.
Workers’ Compensation Settlements
If you were awarded a workers’ compensation settlement involving a lump sum or installments, there are barriers that may be challenging to overcome if you are pursuing unemployment, according to the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR). In these cases, a signed, voluntary resignation along with what is known as a “compromise and release” may be part of the settlement deal, and you would, therefore, no longer be able to receive unemployment benefits.
That said, in California, there is no specific workers’ compensation rule or law that requires you to voluntarily resign from your job when you settle your workers’ compensation claim. If your employer and insurer agree that you can keep your job as part of the settlement, you can resolve your workers’ compensation case without quitting your job.
The reason settlement-related resignations are considered voluntary and not forced is that you don’t have to seek a settlement for your claim. All settlements are entirely optional, so your employer may insist that you resign if you choose to close your case with a lump sum payment. This stipulation is very common and occurs in a large percentage of these types of workers’ compensation claims, so it may very well be another factor you have to consider.
Workers’ Compensation Weekly Payments
If you did not pursue a settlement and are set to begin collecting weekly workers’ compensation payments, the amount you are awarded may be reduced to offset any amount you previously received in unemployment benefits, according to the California Employment Development Department (EDD). This is to prevent individuals from “double dipping”, or receiving two separate sources of income or benefits for the same time period or circumstance.
When you receive unemployment benefits, you are getting financial support while you pursue new job opportunities but haven’t been able to find stable work. However, if you are receiving benefits under workers’ compensation for permanent disability, your injury is considered too severe for you to work in any capacity. As a result, you are not able to seek a new job and do not qualify for unemployment because you don’t fit the description of someone who needs it. If you are receiving temporary benefits payments, on the other hand, the presumption would be that you intend to go back to work at your current position.
Eligibility for unemployment benefits requires that you’ve earned enough income during a specific time period and have a qualifying work history. It’s critical to understand that workers’ compensation is not regarded as wages when determining unemployment benefits. However, you are legally required to disclose your workers’ compensation benefits to the California EDD when filing for unemployment. Failure to accurately report this information could result in penalties or legal consequences.
What Are the Exceptions?
Workers’ compensation benefits are typically limited to the duration of the person’s disability or until maximum medical improvement (MMI) has been reached. If your workers’ compensation benefits end and you are still unemployed, you may be able to reapply for unemployment benefits if you meet the system’s eligibility criteria.
Employees who have had their workers’ compensation claim denied may be another exception. While you file an appeal against this denial, you might be eligible for unemployment benefits. However, if your workers’ compensation claim is eventually approved, the state will demand repayment for any unemployment benefits you received.
There are times when workers cannot return to their jobs because their employer is unable or unwilling to make accommodations for their disability. Your doctor should let you know if you have any long-term limitations or impairments from your injury after you’ve recovered enough to be discharged from medical care.
If You Can Return to Work But Cannot Perform the Same Duties
Assuming you are able to work again, you might not be able to carry out the same duties or hold the same position as you did before. The insurer may decide to pay to train you for a job that requires less physical activity or, alternatively, pursue a settlement for a permanent partial disability. Then, since your injury prevents you from returning to your previous position and you are forced to resign, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits.
Should You File for Unemployment or Workers’ Compensation?
Unfortunately, filing for both types of benefits could undermine your chances of receiving either. Your workers’ compensation claim hinges on the fact that you cannot perform at your job due to your work-related injury. Unemployment benefits are only available to those who can work but cannot find a job. If you are applying for workers’ compensation, you are thereby asserting that you are physically incapable of working.
So, logically, you cannot be both unable to work and capable of working simultaneously. As a result, you could subject yourself to serious penalties for attempting to double-dip, as it were, therefore making you ineligible to receive either type of benefit. To make sure you are not unintentionally breaking any laws, you should carefully review the guidelines governing unemployment and workers’ compensation benefits.
You are also encouraged to contact the California EDD or an attorney who can provide you with guidance based on your situation. They can provide you with the most current and accurate information regarding your options for various benefits and whether you should consider filing for both types of claims.
Contact Our Team of Legal Professionals Today
At KJT Law Group, we assist injured and out-of-work employees in pursuing fair compensation through various sources, including workers’ compensation insurance and unemployment. Our team of legal professionals can assess your case and determine the best course of action for your specific circumstances.
We will work diligently and fight for the benefits you deserve, and we will also ensure your rights are protected and that you understand your options. Contact us today at (818) 507-8525 for a free case review to learn more.