Does Workers’ Comp. Affect Unemployment in Massachusetts?

If you are out of work because of an injury, you may have questions about how to get benefits.  Injured workers often turn to workers’ compensation to get them the replacement wages and medical benefits they need.  However, if you are out of work, you may wonder whether you can apply for unemployment benefits as well, and how workers’ comp. affects those unemployment benefits.

Generally, if you are on workers’ comp. for total incapacity, you will have wages through those benefits and are not eligible for unemployment.  However, you may be able to get unemployment benefits while receiving partial workers’ comp. pay.  In fact, the insurance company might require it since those government benefits may lighten the burden on the insurance company – all without reducing your overall benefit amount.

For help with your case, call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan’s Boston workers’ compensation attorneys today.  We offer free case reviews.  Contact us at (617) 925-6407.

Can You Get Unemployment with Permanent Incapacity Workers’ Compensation in Massachusetts?

Workers’ compensation usually provides wage-loss benefits to compensate workers for the wages they aren’t receiving while they recover from an injury.  These benefits are treated differently if the workers’ incapacity is total or partial.  Section 36B of the Workers’ Compensation Act lays out the rules for how unemployment and workers’ comp. interact for total incapacity benefits under Section 34 (total temporary incapacity) or 34A (permanent and total incapacity).

Workers’ Comp. Benefits for Total Incapacity

Under Section 34, workers’ compensation insurance can pay you 60% of your average weekly wages per week as replacement wages for temporary total incapacity.  Depending on the severity of your injury, you can receive these benefits for up to 156 weeks.  These benefits are paid only when your injury prevents you from working entirely, but only for a limited time.

Under Section 34A, workers’ compensation insurance pays 2/3 of your wages indefinitely.  This is for permanent and total incapacity, meaning that your injuries are severe enough that you cannot return to work and will not be able to return to work in the future.  These benefits have no time limit and are paid as long as your disability lasts.

Limitations When Receiving Unemployment

Under Section 36B, you cannot get workers’ compensation benefits for total incapacity (temporary or permanent) if you are receiving unemployment benefits.  What this essentially sets up is a system where, if you are receiving public benefits from the government for unemployment, the workers’ compensation insurance company that your employer uses does not have to pay you.  So, in the end, you cannot get workers’ comp. at the same time as total incapacity benefits.

If you are totally incapacitated, make sure to speak with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney about how to get the right benefits and which system you should apply through.  You usually will not be eligible for unemployment if you are totally unable to work.

Can You Get Unemployment with Partial Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Massachusetts?

When receiving benefits for partial incapacity instead of total incapacity, you may actually be required by the insurance company to apply for unemployment benefits.

Workers’ Comp. Benefits for Partial Incapacity

If your benefits are being paid for partial incapacity under Section 35, workers’ comp. has determined that you are able to work, but usually with reduced tasks, reduced hours, or other accommodations.  This means that you might still be making money while working, but not at your previous level of income.  it may also mean taking a new job in the meantime if you cannot do your old job (even with accommodations).

The benefits for partial incapacity cover 60% of the difference between your old average wages and your current average wages.  In total, these benefits are subject to certain limits and caps.  You can receive these benefits for up to 260 weeks, but that can be extended to 520 weeks or 364 weeks under some circumstances.

Requirements to Apply for Unemployment

Section 36B may require workers receiving partial incapacity benefits to apply for unemployment.  If your injury allows you to work, but you cannot perform your previous job, you might need to find a new job while on workers’ comp.  If you cannot find a new job immediately, you may need to go on unemployment.

You only have to do this 1), if you would be eligible for unemployment and 2), if the insurance company requests it in writing.  If you are still working at your previous job but with modified work tasks or accommodations, you might not be eligible for unemployment and should not have to apply.

If you fail to act within 60 days of receiving that written request, your insurance carrier can cut off your workers’ comp. benefits.  Make sure to talk to a Somerville workers’ compensation lawyer if you receive any notices about this kind of situation.

Getting Workers’ Comp. and Unemployment Simultaneously

When you get unemployment benefits and partial incapacity workers’ comp. pay at the same time, the workers’ comp. insurance company will reduce how much they pay.  Essentially, the insurance company is allowed to have the government pay your unemployment amount first, and then they pay any leftovers after unemployment has paid you.

Unemployment usually pays 50% of your average weekly wages while you are out of work, up to a maximum of $974 per week (as of October 3, 2021).  Since workers’ compensation pays up to 60% of the difference between old and current wages, the insurance company should still pay if unemployment comes up short.

Talk to a Cambridge workers’ compensation lawyer for additional help, because this can be rather complex and comes with many caveats and requirements you may have to meet.

Should I Apply for Unemployment While on Workers’ Comp. in Massachusetts?

Unemployment is part of a system run by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, intended to pay workers who are willing and able to work but are unemployed through no fault of their own.  If you are on workers’ comp. or want to receive workers’ comp., you might not actually qualify for unemployment.

If you have a total disability, you usually would not qualify for unemployment because you are not physically able to work.  Instead, workers’ compensation should pay your benefits.

If you have a partial disability but cannot find accommodations or modified work at your previous job, you may be able to qualify for unemployment.  In this situation, you would be able to work – at least in part – but you’d be out of a job because of a workplace injury.  Because of the aforementioned Section 36B, not only should you apply in this case, you might actually be required to.

Fault might also prevent you from applying for unemployment, but should not affect workers’ comp.  Again, speak with a Malden workers’ comp. lawyer for additional details and legal assistance.

Call Our Massachusetts Workers’ Comp. Lawyers for Help

If you are receiving workers’ compensation, that can affect your unemployment benefit opportunities – and unemployment can affect workers’ comp.  For a free case evaluation, call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan’s Wakefield workers’ compensation attorneys at (617) 925-6407.