After a work-related injury, you just want to move on.
It’s understandable. Workers’ compensation benefits can help you get there financially.
But what if moving on includes getting a new job?
Can you change jobs and keep getting workers’ comp benefits?
Workers’ comp isn’t meant to lock you to one employer forever and prevent you from seeking new opportunities when the time is right.
The key to this is—when the time is right. You can maintain benefits in certain circumstances when you switch jobs. But in other situations you may lose your workers’ comp benefits if you take a new job.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss four common scenarios affecting whether you can get a new job and keep workers’ comp benefits in Louisiana.
To make the most advantageous decision for you, you should also talk to a workers’ comp lawyer who can look at the details of your situation.
One of the main benefits under workers’ comp is coverage for the medical treatment that you need for your injury on the job.
In cases where you can continue working after your injury—but you still need to keep returning to the doctor for a period of time to fully heal—you can switch jobs and continue receiving medical benefits until you’re recovered as much as possible.
You might also keep working or switch jobs under “light duty” status required by your doctor.
Light duty is an arrangement with your employer for a modified job that’s less physically demanding than your job before the injury. It’s a job that accommodates the physical limitations created by your injury. A typical example is switching from a warehouse job that involves a lot of lifting and standing to a job sitting at a desk.
Not only can you resume working in a new light duty assignment, you may be required to in order to keep your benefits.
If your doctor and employer agree on a plan for light duty work for you, you have to take the job, or risk losing your workers’ comp benefits.
If your doctor says you can do light duty work, but your current employer doesn’t have a light duty job for you, the workers’ comp system may refer you to vocational rehabilitation in an attempt to place you in a different job that meets that light duty requirements.
So in that case, you may be switching jobs anyway.
(You have to be careful that workers’ comp claims examiners don’t use vocational rehabilitation just as a tool to get you off benefits.)
In Louisiana, when you return to work but can’t earn as much as you did before—thanks to your workplace injury—you can get a type of workers’ comp called Supplemental Earnings Benefits (SEB).
SEB compensates you for two-thirds of the reduction in pay you’ve had to absorb because your injury leaves you unable to continue in a role that pays as much as your job before.
That could include a light duty position.
It’s possible to start a new job and continue receiving SEB benefits.
But if you’re making more money in your new job than you were before, you’ll lose workers’ comp benefits.
This is where you cannot start another job and expect to keep your workers’ comp benefits.
Payment for a portion of your lost wages because you can’t work after an injury on the job is one of the most important benefits under workers’ comp. In Louisiana, these weekly checks fall under a form of workers’ comp called indemnity benefits.
The idea behind these types of benefits is that you are completely unable to work while you’re receiving them.
So no, you can’t start working a new job and expect to keep getting these benefits.
It may be time for you to assess your situation and decide if you’re ready to move off of workers’ comp benefits. Before making any decisions, you may want to explore negotiating a workers’ comp settlement to finish your claim, and then pursuing the job you want.
There’s another side to this: If you don’t inform workers’ comp that you’ve started another job, you could get in legal trouble.
The Louisiana Workforce Commission issued this warning on its website:
“If you are unable to perform your regular job duties because of your work-related injury, you cannot obtain another job. However, if you are released to light duty, you must report any income to your employer or his insurer. Your failure to properly report any income earned while receiving workers’ compensation benefits could subject you to civil and/or criminal prosecution.”
One form of indemnity benefit is permanent partial disability, or PPD.
This gives you payment when your injury will affect you for the rest of your life by depriving you of use of a body part or leaving you with a lasting disfigurement.
Depending on the nature of your injury and the type of work you do, you still may be able to work while receiving PPD benefits.
So with this type of benefit, you may be able to switch jobs and keep getting workers’ comp.
After a work injury, you may want to return to work or switch to a different job for many reasons: to better support your family, to get back on track in your career, because you value having productive work to do.
But when you’re receiving workers’ comp benefits, you do need to be careful how you plan your next move.
You have to weigh where you are in the process of recovery from your injury and what kinds of benefits you still need. You may have to weigh the value of your benefits against the value of a new job.
The workers’ comp lawyers at Workers’ Compensation, LLC, have over 130 years of combined experience helping people in Louisiana make these decisions.
If you’re trying to decide whether you can or should seek a new job while you’re receiving workers’ comp benefits, talk to us.