Apologists for Thought leaders in the workers compensation insurance industry like to tout how they want injured employees to “return to work.” But insurance industry rhetoric about the importance of return to work is belied by at least three common scenarios involving employees with serious work injuries.
Employer requires an employee to resign in order to receive a lump sum settlement for their workers compensation claim: Early on in my career a defense lawyer told me that his client “Didn’t want their employees driving to the plant in an Escalade (this was the mid-2000s) after they settled their workers compensation case.” Putting aside the absurdity of someone who earns wages that would make their kids eligible for free or reduced lunch buying a luxury SUV after they had been off of work for an extended length of time, this practice indicates that some employers really don’t want injured workers to return to work after an injury.A recent discussion over the WILG listserv indicated that resignation as a condition of a workers compensation case settlement was a common practice across the United States. An agreement to resign normally comes as a separate severance agreement. Those settlement agreements may not be binding if an employer doesn’t include the right language in the release which is why an injured worker would want to consult with an employment lawyer or have a lawyer familiar with employment law and workers compensation represent them in their work injury.
Certain states, like Massachusetts, outlaw the practice of conditioning a settlement on resignation. Even in states where the practice is considered lawful lawyers may consider challenging such practices on the basis of anti-retaliation laws, unfair claims practice laws or causes of action that prevent interference with contractual relationships.
Employer requires employee to return to work with “no restrictions”. 100 percent healed policies are considered to violate the Americans with Disabilities Act by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and by some intermediate level federal appellate courts. Regardless of whether the Supreme Court or Congress ultimately decide such policies are illegal, oftentimes a person with an injury that requires surgery and time off from work is going to have some permanent restrictions.Many times requests that an employee return to work without restrictions are sent after an employee exhausts their 12 weeks of FMLA. Oftentimes employers will extend a short amount of unpaid leave in addition to FMLA. When injured employees receive these letters many of them feel like their company is trying to push them out. This feeling can sometimes be correct. That’s why it is helpful to have an attorney who knows how workers compensation and employment laws intersect.
Employer suggests that employee apply for private disability for a work injury: Private short-term (STD) and long-term disability (LTD) policies can be helpful to employees. Some policies even allow employees to collect both LTD and STD with workers compensation benefits.But some employers will push employee onto disability because it is cheaper than paying workers compensation benefits. Even more insidiously if an employee stays off work long enough that they are eligible for long term disability, some long-term disability policies require that employees apply for social security disability or SSDI in order to continue receiving LTD. Many of these policies hold if an employee receives SSDI they need to payback the LTD insurance company for the time that SSDI and LTD benefits overlapped.
I ran into a policy like this representing a client in a disability discrimination case. Courts have questioned the legality of these policies as well. If you are stuck in a situation where you are applying for long term disability because of a work injury and being forced to apply for SSDI, you should consult with a lawyer who is familiar with workers compensation and SSDI.
What can I do if the Social Security Administration (SSA) says I have been overpaid disability benefits?
This is a very common problem, unfortunately. There are a number of factors that cause these issues to come up so frequently.
First, the rules about how much one can make differ, depending on what type of disability benefit is received. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients can earn over $1,000 per month without jeopardizing their monthly benefit. But almost every dollar earned by Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients can affect the amount of their monthly benefit, as this benefit is partially based upon a recipient’s financial situation. These amounts can change over time.
Second, there are many different rules about when you can earn money from working above what is called the substantial gainful employment level and not jeopardize your continued entitlement to disability benefit. It’s difficult to summarize all of the circumstances, yet alone know all of the rules, for a claimant. What’s more, simply providing the SSA your wages doesn’t absolve you from having to repay overpayments. The SSA doesn’t look at this information on a regular basis. Years later, you may get a “Dear John” letter advising you that you were overpaid thousands of dollars.
Finally, you may simply get wrong or bad information from someone when you meet with or speak with the SSA. It’s important to document when you spoke with the person and who that person was. If possible, get them to put their advice in writing.
When faced with an overpayment, there are two things you should always do. First, Continue reading →