The Interplay Between Unemployment, Social Security and Workers Compensation In Minnesota, Part 1
The Interplay Between Unemployment
and Workers Compensation In Minnesota
April 20, 2012
Workers Compensation Wage Loss Benefits:
Generally, to be entitled to wage loss benefits the Employee must show a causal connection between his or her wage loss and the work injury. The law also requires that the work injury cause a physical impairment which also causes a diminution in the employee’s earning capacity. An injured worker must have work restrictions/limitations. While it is ideal to have those restrictions in writing, it is not a requirement.
Unemployment compensation in Minnesota is awarded to workers who are eligible after being terminated from employment for reasons other than employment misconduct. Unemployment compensation can also be given to workers who quit their job and satisfy one of the exceptions outlined under Minnesota law. See Minn. Stat. 268.095 (attached).
Like workers compensation, a worker is eligible for unemployment compensation in Minnesota on a week to week basis. In other words, a worker’s status for unemployment compensation could change every week. A worker who is unemployed in Minnesota should consider filing a continued request for unemployment compensation for each week the worker believes they are eligible.
Seeking Suitable Employment
Like workers compensation, a worker in Minnesota requesting unemployment compensation needs to be available for suitable employment and conduct a diligent job search. Accordingly, if a worker is taken off work by doctor, the worker is not entitled to unemployment for that time period. In cases, where an injured worker is on unemployment, it may be in his or her best interest to be released to work with very limiting restrictions rather than being taken off work. An Employee is disqualified from unemployment compensation when unable to work, but may qualify if able to do some work.
Collecting Both Unemployment And Workers Compensation Benefits
In Minnesota, a person can collect workers compensation benefits and unemployment benefits at the same time. However, it is extremely unlikely that that a person will qualify for both workers compensation benefits and unemployment benefits at the same time. As a result, applicants trying to collect workers compensation benefits and unemployment benefits in Minnesota should be extremely cautious and consult with a lawyer. Otherwise, the Minnesota unemployment office may claim fraud on the worker’s unemployment account causing more issues and hardship.
In Minnesota, if wage loss benefits in a workers compensation claim are higher than the weekly unemployment benefit amount, then the person seeking unemployment benefits in Minnesota would not be eligible for unemployment benefits. On the other hand, if the workers compensation wages loss is less than their weekly unemployment benefit amount, then the person seeking unemployment benefits in Minnesota would likely be eligible for unemployment benefits while collecting workers compensation benefits too, at least for the difference. Some unemployment claims are denied if there is a pending claim petition for workers compensation age loss benefits for the same period. I encourage workers to appeal such denials.
The intent of unemployment benefits is to recover lost wages for losing a job for no fault by the applicant who is seeking unemployment benefits in Minnesota. If the unemployment judge finds that the employee quit without good reason or committed misconduct, then the employee is not entitled to unemployment.See Minn. Stat. 268.095.
A finding of misconduct by the unemployment office or judge, is not admissible in a workers compensation proceeding. Further, the misconduct standards are similar but different. Misconduct is defined by Stat. 268.095 for unemployment compensation. For workers compensation law, “the term 'misconduct' . . is limited to conduct evincing such willful or wanton disregard of an employer's interests as is found in deliberate violations or disregard of standards of behavior . . . or in carelessness or negligence of such degree or recurrence as to manifest equal culpability, wrongful intent or evil design, or to show an intentional and substantial disregard of [the] employer's interest" See Moon v. A Chance to Grow, 68 W.C.D. 41 at 49 (Minn. Work. Comp. Ct. of App., February 8, 2008) (citing Tilseth v. Midwest Lumber Co., 295 Minn. 372, 204 N.W.2d 644 (Minn. 1973). Mere inefficiency, unsatisfactory conduct, poor performance, inadvertencies, ordinary negligence and good-faith errors in judgment or discretion are not 'misconduct.' So, an action by the employee that is considered misconduct under the unemployment standard may not be misconduct under the workers compensation system. Also, a reason for two different outcome is that unemployment hearings are typically one hour. So, the unemployment judge may not get the whole story. Also, usually workers are not represented in unemployment hearings. That could affect the outcome as well.
Likewise, if the insurer or employer claims the employee was fired for misconduct or that he or she quit, the insurer or employer will likely not willingly pay wage loss benefits. Many employees will apply for unemployment when that occurs. If the employee gets unemployment, we can still pursue workers compensation wage loss benefits for that time period as workers compensation benefits are usually more and not taxable. If we are successful in getting benefits, unemployment is reimbursed for any weeks the employee receives workers compensation wage loss benefits.
If a workers compensation judge finds an employee committed misconduct, Temporary Total Disability benefits end. However, there are instances when TTD can be recommenced. In those cases, the employee can get them recommenced if he can show it is his or her work restrictions from the work injury that has caused his wage loss, not the termination for misconduct. An employee can prove this by doing a diligent job search and noting jobs he could have done but for his work restrictions. Further, a finding of misconduct does not necessarily end an injured workers eligibility for rehabilitation services, TPD benefits, medical benefits, retraining, PPD, and PTD benefits.
Restrictions And Unemployment
I have many clients whose workers compensation wage loss claims are denied for a variety of reasons. As long as they are released to work (even with very limiting restrictions) I encourage them to apply for unemployment and to honestly complete the unemployment applications. If an injured worker is taken off all work, they are not eligible for unemployment.
I have had clients denied by unemployment because some of the work the client is looking for is outside of his or restrictions. This seems unfair to the injured worker, but this is happening. QRC’s are not having injured workers apply for jobs they obviously cannot do; however, they recommend they apply for jobs that are outside of the restrictions but could be modified for that worker. In these cases, I think it is helpful if the injured worker and the QRC note the job could possibly be modified to meet the employee’s restrictions and that is why the injured worker applied.