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Q: I was hospitalized for several weeks after a workplace accident in Lancaster. During that time, I was told that my position was eliminated and I was no longer employed. Can I collect unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation at the same time?

A:

We’re very, very sorry to hear that your life has become so complicated in such an unfortunate way.

Before we get to the answer to your question, we’d like to reassure you about two other things that you didn’t mention.

  • Your Pennsylvania workers’ compensation benefits remain secure. You don’t lose your medical or income benefits just because you were laid off. Your former company and its workers’ compensation insurance carrier are still obliged to pay for reasonable medical expenses until you reach maximum recovery from your injuries. In fact, firing you may have worked against their best financial interests, because they are no longer able to offer you alternative employment as you recover.
  • You may have a legal claim against your employer for wrongful termination. If you think that you were fired because you filed a workers’ compensation claim, rather than as part of a general business reorganization, then you may be able to demand compensation from your company for discriminatory employment practices. For example, if other people who held jobs similar to yours were retained as employees, that might be a sign that your boss was retaliating against you for filing a workers’ comp claim. We suggest you consult with an employment discrimination lawyer at the earliest opportunity.

Unemployment Compensation Vs. Workers’ Comp: Can They Get Along?

The question you asked is one we get a lot, because many people who have filed for workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania have been threatened with losing their jobs.

Here’s why the question is a little puzzling: Unemployment compensation isn’t just money that is given to people who have lost a job. It’s money that’s given to people who are actively seeking a new job. You are only considered an active job seeker if you’re able to work when it is offered. However, someone collecting workers’ compensation benefits must be at least partially disabled from a workplace injury or occupational illness. If you’re disabled, then it would seem that you would not be able to withstand the demands of a job, and thus you can’t claim unemployment benefits.

In fact, there is a potential loophole that usually allows most eligible people to claim both unemployment compensation and workers’ compensation benefits at the same time. After an injury on the job, you may not be able to go back to your old line of work, but you may also be perfectly able to handle lighter duties. If you can legitimately say that there is some form of work that suits your skills and your physical limitations, that is sufficient grounds to collect unemployment benefits.

One further complication: for the purposes of Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law, any money you receive in unemployment benefits is treated as work income. Each dollar in unemployment compensation reduces your workers’ compensation income benefits by a dollar. Some people think they will end up collecting twice under the two programs; as a practical matter, though, they end up collecting only the higher amount given by either program.

Any More Questions? We’re Here With Answers!

Our Harrisburg workers’ compensation lawyers are ready to respond to inquiries from our central Pennsylvania neighbors. We can help you understand the value of your workers’ compensation claim, negotiate on your behalf with the employer trying to force you back to work too soon, or appeal a decision to terminate your benefits.

To set up a FREE and confidential case evaluation with a lawyer, call Schmidt Kramer at 717-888-8888 or 888-476-0807 toll-free or use the contact form on this page. Just for calling, we’d be happy to send you a free copy of our client report, Who Pays the Bills When You Are Injured at Work?

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