What Are Your Rights If You Were Injured At Work And Then Your Job Was Eliminated By COVID-19?
The COVID-19 global pandemic is the largest public health catastrophe in over 100 years. It has resulted in catastrophic loss, serious illness, and a taxing impact on our nation’s healthcare system. The pandemic has also resulted in a serious impact on our nation’s economy. Unemployment rates, although improved since the start of the pandemic, remain at alarmingly high rates. Perhaps the most vulnerable to job loss are injured workers, who not only face the challenge of losing their job but also the realization that finding new employment is complicated by physical restrictions caused by a work injury. For example, an electrician that suffers an injury at work and returns to a light-duty job only to lose the position to the fallout from COVID is faced with a job market that is severely compromised plus they cannot perform their usual trade. The odds that a hiring electrical contractor would offer a job to someone with a weight restriction when it comes to lifting is highly improbable.
Fortunately, the caselaw on this issue is appropriately in favor of an injured worker in this predicament. If an employee is hurt at work and returns with limitations in place (“light” or “modified” duty) and then is let go (fired, terminated, laid off, furloughed – all treated the same), the courts look at the employee’s role in the employment ending. Obviously, if the employee is at “fault” or exhibits “bad faith,” then rights may be severely limited. Thus, if there is an injury and a return to light duty and the injured worker then fails a random drug test, there is an uphill battle to seeking wage loss benefits here. However, if there is an injury and a return to light duty and the employer eliminates this worker’s job due to economic constraints from the COVID-19 pandemic, clearly, this worker has done nothing wrong other than being a victim to unfortunate circumstances. In this situation, the injured worker is entitled to the payment of workers’ compensation lost wage benefits.
I have seen this situation time and again since March 2020. Insurance companies have preyed on injured workers by not paying lost wage benefits when they have sustained disabling injuries and have subsequently lost their job. Instead, they have actually cheated their policyholders – Pennsylvania employers – and the employers have had to fund unemployment compensation claims. The law entitles these individuals to workers’ compensation benefits. Many times, these injured workers have consulted me for some other aspect of their claim and I have been able to inform them of their right to wage loss benefits. In almost every circumstance, the workers’ compensation benefits are a larger weekly dollar amount than the unemployment benefits.
If you were injured at work and subsequently lost your job due to circumstances surrounding the pandemic, please call us right away. The consultation is free and you deserve an explanation of your legal rights. Frankly, if you are let go for ANY reason following a work injury, you ought to call us. Do not leave compensation that is due to you on the table. We have an excellent track record in these scenarios.
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