This is the next post in the series that looks at the basics of workers’ compensation. If you receive both workers’ compensation benefits and Social Security Administration disability benefits, please be aware of the concerns raised here.
The most important thing a worker who is entitled to receive both workers’ compensation and SSA disability benefits can do is report the amount of workers’ compensation benefits to the Social Security Administration, in writing if possible. Failure to do so can result in an overpayment that may not be uncovered until years later and may be thousands of dollars.
However, the reporting of these benefits doesn’t ensure the SSA will make the proper adjustment to your SSA monthly benefit. As such, it’s important to follow up with the SSA once you have reported your benefit amount to ensure they adjust your SSA benefit to account for this. This will help ensure an overpayment is not found years later. Be sure to ask an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer if you have questions.
Please read the previous blog posts in the workers’ compensation basics series by clicking on these links:
Assuming you do not have an employment contract, you can only claim wrongful termination if the firing was motivated by certain unlawful reasons. Unlawful reasons include discrimination based on sex or gender – this includes sexual harassment and pregnancy – as well as race, religion, nationality and disability. In certain places and in certain situations, sexual orientation discrimination can also be unlawful. Disability in this context will often mean any serious or chronic health condition you have. Disability discrimination can also mean that you are taking care of someone with a disability.
You also cannot be discriminated against by your employer for certain activities on the job. This is commonly referred to as retaliation. One of these activities is taking extended leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for your own or for a loved one’s medical condition. Other common protected activities include opposing unlawful discrimination; filing a safety complaint; filing a workers’ compensation complaint; complaining of pay practices; or complaining about other illegal activities. If you are a government employee, you might also have some claims based on constitutional law.
This time of year, many people get holiday jobs to earn extra money. That means some people will get injured at work and run into other difficulties working holiday jobs. Here are six tips on how to deal with the workplace challenges arising from holiday jobs. These tips for safe and fair employment apply just as well to any second job, not just a holiday job.
Just because you have a “holiday job” doesn’t necessarily make you a seasonal employee: In some states, including my home state of Nebraska, employees can have their benefits reduced if they are a “seasonal employee.” However, even if you have a holiday job, your job may not be seasonal. In Nebraska, “seasonal employment” is defined as a job that is dependent on weather or can only be done during certain times of the year. For example, if you hurt your back working at an electronics store at your holiday job, that employment is not seasonal because you can work at an electronics or really most any retail store at any time of the year.
You can’t be paid workers’ compensation for how your holiday or second job affects your regular job: If you are off work at your regular job because of an injury at your second job or holiday job, you are only paid income-replacement benefits for the income you lost at your holiday job or second job. For example in Nebraska, if you were hurt at your holiday/second job that pays $120 per week and you are unable to do your regular job that pays $600 per week, your only income benefit would be two-thirds of your second/holiday job, which would be $80. Employees should be extra cautious in second jobs or holiday jobs for just that reason. Employees should also consider applying for private disability plans if they plan on having a second job in order to account for the possibility of losing income due to an injury at their second job. In short, employees should do a thorough cost-benefit analysis before taking a holiday job or second job.
Your permanent disability benefits could be better than your temporary benefits: In full-time employment, permanent and temporary disability benefits are generally fairly close. But with part-time employment, permanent disability benefits may be much higher than temporary benefits. In my state of Nebraska, temporary benefits are paid based on a typical work week. For example, if you are a part-timer working 12 hours a week at $10 per hour, your temporary disability pay would be $80 a week. However, in Nebraska and some other states, permanent disability is based on no less than a 40-hour week. So if you are a part-timer getting paid $10 per hour, your permanent disability rate would be $266.67 per month. This is good for employees, because serious injuries will usually have permanent effects that can permanently affect an employee’s ability to earn a living.
If you are an injured part-time worker and your insurance company is trying to force you to take a settlement based on your part-time wage rate, you should consult with an attorney in your state.
Your employer/insurer may be low-balling your wage rate: Say you get paid $8 an hour as a barista but you have an agreement to share tips, or you work in retail but you get store credit, or you teach exercise classes at a health club but you have an agreement that you get a free membership. In any of those scenarios, you could possibly use those benefits to increase your loss-of-income benefits.
You are still protected by most fair-employment laws: Part-timers are still covered by most fair-employment laws. The most glaring exception is likely the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave and job protection for employees with a serious health condition, to care for a close family member with a serious health condition, or take care of a close family member who is affected by a military deployment. FMLA requires 1,250 hours worked in the last calendar year and 1 year of employment. That 1,250 hours a year translates to roughly 24 hours a week. Many people working second jobs don’t meet the eligibility standards for FMLA.
Independent contractor, independent conschmacktor: Many holiday employees do fairly low-wage work that doesn’t require any specialized training or education. If this describes your holiday job or second job, then you are an employee, despite the fact that your company may have classified you as an independent contractor. Since you are an employee, you should be covered by workers’ compensation law. If you are misclassified as an independent contractor, you should look for other employment and consider reporting your unscrupulous employer to the United States Department of Labor or to your state’s department of labor.
In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you have to prove that you have one or more physical and/or mental impairments that are severe and that prevent you from engaging in substantial gainful activity.
Substantial gainful activity is measured by the amount of money per month that you can earn.
The Social Security Administration will take into account your educational background, job history, and the skills you have acquired in determining whether or not you meet this standard. The fact that you cannot go back to the job you have done for most of your life does not necessarily mean that you can qualify for Social Security disability payments.
I am licensed in Nebraska and Iowa and handle workers’ compensation, personal injury, and Social Security disability appeals for the firm. If you have questions about Social Security disability benefits or the appeal process in another state, I can refer you to another expert attorney.
Having physical or mental impairment will not automatically make you entitled to Social Security Disability benefits.
Many people believe that if they suffer from a physical and/or mental impairment and can’t find work, this means they should be on Social Security Disability. This simply isn’t true.
Disability is not necessarily tied to your ability to obtain work, or your inability to perform one main occupation. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will review your employability not just in your immediate locality, but also in the state and region in which you live.
While only employment opportunities in your immediate areas are considered for workers’ compensation, the same is not true for social security disability. If you are unable to find work in your immediate area, the SSA requires you to move to a locality where a job exists. Note that the SSA’s responsibility doesn’t include having to find you employment, but only to establish that you are physically and mentally capable of performing that job if a position became available.
Additionally, your inability to perform the work you’ve done for years or decades does not automatically qualify you for disability. The SSA will consider skills you’ve acquired from your work life in determining whether those skills allow you to “transfer” to or perform other occupations. It’s important to also remember that the SSA isn’t really concerned with how much those other occupations may pay. If you can work full-time in a position that is available in your state and region, this will normally disqualify you from receiving disability.
The conditions which the SSA imposes upon a claimant are unfortunately, not always feasible or fair. Nevertheless, as it is the current state of the law, compliance is required.