On Thursday, March 19, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf recently ordered that all non life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania close down their physical operations in an effort to slow down the spread of the COVID-19 virus. While there will obviously be questions and arguments about what constitutes “life-sustaining”, there is no doubt that many employers will be temporarily ceasing operations and laying off many workers as of Monday, March 23, when the enforcement of this order begins.
While the average laid off worker will be able to apply for Unemployment Compensation benefits, there is a subset of workers who will find themselves in a more confusing and uncertain situation: injured workers.
An injured worker’s ability to continue to receive workers’ compensation benefits will depend on many factors.
The clearest set of facts involve an injured worker who has been out of work following a work injury and has been collecting wage loss benefits on a weekly or biweekly basis. These injured workers should expect their workers’ compensation benefit checks to continue as their benefits are not legally tied to the continued operation of their Employer.
If an injured worker has recently returned to work following an extended absence due to a work injury, they must act quickly to make sure their ongoing right to benefits is protected if their Employer ceases operations. If a worker in this situation, had been out of work collecting workers’ compensation wage loss benefits, and recently returned to work, it is likely that they would have received a Notification of Suspension or Modification. This Notice can be appealed through a process called the Employee Challenge but this appeal must be filed within 20 days of the receipt of the Notice. Because the Employee Challenge appeal focuses solely on actual earnings, if the Employer has ceased operations, then the injured worker would be entitled to an immediate reinstatement of benefits.
If an injured worker is back to work following a work injury, and working in a modified or light duty capacity, the Employer’s cessation of business activity, or at least the elimination of the worker’s role, should entitle the injured worker to a modification of their wage loss benefits from the presumably partial benefit they were receiving to their full wage loss benefit allowable under workers’ compensation law. If an injured worker finds themself in this situation, they should reach out to an attorney as soon as possible.
Clearly there are several different factors and situations that may be in play at this point and the above scenarios are simply an overview. If you have an ongoing workers’ compensation claim, now is a great time to reach out and speak with an attorney that can review your situation and advise you through each step of an especially confusing time.
At Schmidt Kramer, your initial consultation is free and we are ready to help you today. There is no face to face meeting required and you can remain at home from the case sign up to settlement.
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