Can a Workers’ Comp Claim Affect My Future Employment in Massachusetts?

Working can be dangerous, especially in certain professions.  Accidents sometimes happen – often through no fault of the injured worker – and workers’ compensation claims can be filed to pay for lost wages and medical bills.  But will these claims affect your future employment?

Under Massachusetts law, a workers’ comp. claim can certainly affect your future employment, but not in the way you might think.  Both Massachusetts law and federal law prevent discrimination based on disabilities and previous workers’ compensation claims.  However, your ability to work might be permanently affected by your disability, and workers’ compensation benefits may be cut off if you return to work while you are deemed unable to work.

For help with a workers’ compensation claim in Massachusetts, call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan today at (617) 925-6407.  Our Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorneys offer free case reviews.

Massachusetts Discrimination Protections for Disabilities and Workers’ Comp. Filers

The Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act is Chapter 152 of Part I, Title XXI of the Massachusetts General Laws.  Section 75B of this act lays out protections for injured workers and people who have previously claimed workers’ compensation benefits to prevent employment discrimination against these people.

The rules in § 75B(1) detail who counts as a “qualified handicapped person” – namely, those who had a work injury but can still do a job with “reasonable accommodations.”  Parts of Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 151B, § 4 make discrimination against these people illegal.

Section 75B(2) makes it illegal for employers in Massachusetts to discriminate against workers who have previously exercised their rights under Chapter 152 (e.g., by claiming workers’ comp. benefits).  If you are discriminated against in this way, you can sue the employer for lost wages.  The court can also order them to give you a job or other types of relief.

In some cases, these rights can be modified by union and collective bargaining agreements.  Talk to a Boston workers’ compensation attorney before filing for workers’ compensation benefits to better understand your rights and what protections you have when filing.

Federal Protections for Disabilities and Workers’ Compensation Claims

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also provides protections for injured and disabled employees across the country.  Under the ADA, disabled workers cannot be discriminated against and must be given accommodations.  Additionally, there are many interactions between the ADA and state workers’ compensation rules that result in additional protections for workers.

Generally speaking, the ADA prevents discrimination because of a prior injury or disability.  However, if the job would be impossible for you to perform, even with reasonable accommodations, there might be no requirement for the employer to give you a job you can’t do.  The fact that you previously filed for workers’ compensation does not automatically mean you qualify as “disabled” under the ADA’s definition, and state and ADA definitions of “disabled,” can vary greatly.  Employers also should not take your potential effect on their workers’ compensation costs into account.  They may even be restricted as to when in the hiring process they can ask you questions about your prior claims.

Talk to our Malden workers’ compensation attorneys to find out more about how your potential claim can affect your future employment under ADA rules.

Can I Be Fired After Applying for Workers’ Compensation in Massachusetts?

Along with the protections from Massachusetts law and the ADA, you usually cannot be fired because of your disability or medical condition.  However, if accommodations cannot be made, there is no requirement that your employer keep your job open.  Sometimes this termination would rise to the level of discrimination under Ch. 152, § 75B, but other times this is permitted.

If you are let go while you recover from your injuries, then Ch. 152, § 75A might require your employer to give you preference over other candidates if you apply for re-hiring.  Union agreements and collective bargaining agreements might also give you additional protections so that you cannot be fired – but those agreements are separate from what’s in the law.

Can I Keep My Workers’ Comp. Benefits When I Start a New Job in Massachusetts?

Trying to start a new job while on workers’ compensation is definitely possible in many cases, but you should always have a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney review your case and help with these important decisions.  Depending on what type of benefits you are receiving, you may not be able to return to work without losing your benefits – or you may be expected to find work or even apply for unemployment benefits while receiving workers’ compensation.

Total Disability Benefits

If you are receiving total incapacity benefits, this means that there has been a determination that you are totally unable to work.  These benefits can be temporary if your condition will only last for a while, and you can receive these benefits for up to 156 weeks.  For permanent and total disability, these benefits can last indefinitely.

If you start working again while receiving total disability benefits, you will probably have these benefits terminated.  These benefits only come when you cannot work, so if you work anyway, that could be considered fraud – or at least prove to the workers’ compensation insurance carrier that you don’t actually need these benefits.

Because of this, you probably won’t be able to get a new job – or any job – while on total disability benefits.

Partial Disability Benefits

If your injury only partially prevents you from working, you could be entitled to partial incapacity benefits.  with these benefits, you may be able to work in any of the following arrangements:

  • Modified job duties and accommodations at your current job, potentially for lower pay
  • Modified job duties and accommodations at a new job, potentially for lower pay
  • Reduced work hours at your current job
  • Reduced work hours at a new job

In any of these cases, you will probably get paid less.  Workers’ comp. benefits can be paid to make up some of the difference.  If you start a new job during this period, that’s usually not an issue; it just changes your income levels and the compensation amount you receive.

If you are let go from your original job because of the injury, you may have a period of unemployment while on workers’ comp.  In some cases, the insurance company is allowed to require you to go on unemployment benefits from the Commonwealth, using those to pay your wages before having to contribute themselves.  Talk to our Cambridge workers’ compensation lawyers for more details.

Call Our Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Attorneys Today

If you need help seeking workers’ compensation benefits or understanding how those benefits will affect future work opportunities, call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan’s Wakefield workers’ compensation lawyers today.  Our phone number is (617) 925-6407.