Can I work while on workers’ compensation?

Dealing with a work-related injury can be taxing for more reasons than just the injury itself. Work injuries disrupt your routine, add a lot of bureaucratic paperwork and can affect your mood or mental health. These factors may lead injured workers to wonder whether they can return to some type of work, even if it’s not the job they had prior to their injuries.

Here are some answers to some common questions workers facing this situation might have.

Am I allowed to work at my current job while collecting workers’ compensation?

Technically, yes – you can still work while receiving workers’ compensation benefits. However, there are strict rules you must follow, especially when it comes to reporting your income to the insurance company. If you were injured at your workplace and a doctor cleared you to return to work under the condition of light-duty, that must still be reported, even if it’s the same employer.

Can I work a second job while collecting workers’ compensation benefits?

The short answer is no, we wouldn’t recommend it. Workers receive workers’ compensation benefits because they are injured and unable to perform their usual job duties. If you are physically capable of working a second job, then it may be determined that you are able to return to your current job or capable of finding employment somewhere else.

The long answer is that the issue is complicated. If you start working for a different employer while abiding by your restrictions, you still have to report that income to the insurance company of pre-injury employer. If you are still not earning as much as you had previously, you may still be entitled to partial wage loss benefits. These benefits will be reduced from the full amount you would receive if you weren’t working at all. This will be calculated by the insurance company. At junctures like these, it can be very beneficial to have a workers’ compensation lawyer review your paystubs to ensure that your modified benefits are accurately paid out.

If you at any point stop working again, the insurance company should reinstate your full wage loss benefits. However, insurance companies often try to combat this and require litigation to comply.

Your lost wages may be fully suspended if your new job pays you the same or more than the wages you earned before your work injury. However, your medical benefits should remain in place. At this point, the insurance company will likely notify you that your checks will be stopped – again, another critical time to check in with your attorney. You’ll want to check with a legal expert to ensure that your wage loss benefits should actually be suspended and that your medical benefits are intact.

What if I already have a second job?

If you had a second job for another employer at the time of your injury, your workers’ compensation benefits may either completely or partially cover the loss of the second income.

It’s best to get ahead of this issue when filing your claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Any income you received at the time of your injury should be reported in your claim.

Say you also had a part-time job while you were injured working at your full-time job. If your injury prevents you from working that part-time job as well, the workers’ compensation benefits may cover the total income you would usually receive from the two jobs. This process, however, is difficult to navigate. It may be best to consult a workers’ compensation lawyer to help you find the best plan of action for your unique situation.

What if I’m still able to work my second job?

This issue comes up frequently when discussing the issue of having two jobs and being injured at the primary job. This job may be less labor-intensive or physically demanding. It may be shorter hours. It may be in a different industry entirely, and does not require the same physical tools.

Whatever the reason for your ability to work one job and not the other, an insurance company is likely to account for it. Your benefits may be adjusted in light of a second income.

This raises another more critical issue — your ability to work a second job may affect the success of your claim. Your employer could claim that the responsibilities of the second job are evidence of your ability to do your primary job. If this is the case, it’s possible that your benefits will be cut off.

The following example may shed more light on the situation:

Let’s say your primary job, the job where your injury took place, is in a labor-intensive industry like construction and your part-time job is as a landscaper. An employer may look at those two jobs and determine that if you are capable of physical landscaping work, you should be capable of construction work. Being able to perform your part-time duties likely requires the same physical demands—standing for long periods of time, lifting machinery, or bending over frequently.

If the jobs require a different set of skills or physical effort, such as construction versus office work, then you may be able to continue doing the office work while collecting benefits. However, like we mentioned before, those benefits may be scaled down to account for the additional income.

What if I want to obtain a second job?

Typically, this is not in your best interests. Whether your injury keeps you out of your primary job for the short-term, long-term or permanently, a second job could either lessen your benefits or put them in jeopardy entirely. It’s best to stay out of the workforce and give yourself time to recover.

What happens if I get caught working while on workers’ comp?

If you are caught working while receiving full workers’ compensation benefits – and you haven’t been reporting your total income – you may face serious consequences. Insurance companies do have the right to surveil the public activities of an injured worker that is making a workers’ compensation claim (remember: when in public, you have no expectation of privacy under the law). They could also hire third-party investigative companies to scrutinize your social media and collect evidence that you have been working at another job. In short, if they can bring a solid workers’ compensation fraud case against you, you would likely not only lose your workers’ compensation benefits, but also potentially face criminal prosecution. Other repercussions of workers’ compensation fraud can include having to reimburse workers’ compensation for improperly paid benefits, paying civil fines, paying criminal fines, or even serving prison time. This is why Pond Lehocky Giordano always recommends full transparency and honesty to clients.

What if I get a second job that pays ‘under the table’?

Put simply, if you are collecting workers’ compensation benefits, you must report ALL additional income. In most cases, not reporting income will be considered insurance fraud.

Insurance carriers are very familiar with these practices and have many methods in place to ensure that claimants are not “fooling” the system. For example, if you are suspected of working an additional job and not reporting income, investigators may be watching and collecting evidence to prove you are doing this.

Additionally, any person can report this activity either directly to a carrier or to the appropriate government agency.

It’s not worth the risk. If the insurance company determines that you are collecting income and not reporting, your benefits can be taken away and legal action can be taken against you.

Laws differ in each state

This guideline lays out the general rules governing working while receiving workers’ compensation benefits. However, laws vary by state.

In some cases, if a worker is released to light duty, he or she may seek out an appropriate job and still receive benefits, but that worker must still report the additional income to the insurance carrier. There are also circumstances where a worker can return to work while receiving benefits for intermittent lost time.

Like any workers’ compensation claim, it’s always best to consult a workers’ compensation attorney to find out what your options are and how you can best protect yourself against lost benefits or actions that may affect your claim.