“I Quit” and Wage Loss
You’re hurt at work. Maybe you feel your employer hasn’t done right by you. It can be tempting to just quit. But before you do, you should consult with an attorney.
Know Your Rights Before You Quit
Given the aggressiveness and calculation with which employers and their insurance companies are handling work-related injuries these days, it is more important than ever for employees to understand their rights and obligations under Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation system and to be aware of how a seemingly slight misstep, no matter how minor or innocent it may appear at the time, can profoundly jeopardize their right to wage loss benefits.
The two primary types of benefits available to an injured worker under the system are
- Indemnity (wage loss)
- Medical benefits.
The law states that, if an injured worker is totally disabled, they are entitled to receive wage loss benefits in an amount equal to two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly wage (as derived utilizing the worker’s earnings over the year preceding the injury). There are only a limited number of circumstances that can change the status quo of these benefits, most involving the injured employee signing certain paperwork or a workers’ compensation judge issuing an order directing such.
What If I Quit?
One way that an employee can affect the status of their wage loss benefits is by uttering two small words of monumental import: “I quit.” Simply stated, an employee loses their eligibility for wage loss benefits by voluntarily withdrawing from the workforce.
Consider the following example: Jason sustains a low back injury while in the course and scope of his employment. He undergoes surgery and is totally disabled from working for three months, during which time he is paid wage loss benefits by the workers’ compensation insurance company. At that time, Jason’s neurosurgeon releases him to return to work with a 10-pound weight restriction, which the employer is unable to accommodate, so he continues to receive his disability benefits. Ultimately, the doctor increases Jason’s weight tolerance to 25 pounds, which, theoretically, would allow him to return to perform his pre-injury job. However, by this time, the employer has filled Jason’s position at the company with a new hire and decides not to bring Jason back in any capacity. Frustrated and disappointed, as he has given over 20 years of hard work and dedication to his employer, Jason quits his job to find other work (it is important to note that the employer does not terminate Jason’s employment with the company; rather, his departure comes as a result of a voluntary resignation). In this situation, barring a regression to total disability, Jason’s right to receive wage loss benefits will end as of the date he tenders his resignation. On the flip side, if the employer had dismissed Jason from his employment, he would have been entitled to ongoing wage loss benefits beyond the date of his termination, as this would have remained the status quo with his claim.
There are a myriad of variations to the above factual scenario—with the common denominator of an employee voluntarily withdrawing from the workforce—that all end with the same result: the worker losing indemnity benefits through the workers’ compensation system to which they otherwise would be entitled. And, oftentimes, the impetus for leaving the job is the implicit or explicit prompting of the employer, knowing full well that the move is not in the employee’s best interest.
Don’t Quit Before You Call A Lawyer
Here is the bottom line: If you are the victim of a work-related injury, do not resign from or quit your job before speaking with an attorney. Any attorney at Georgelis Injury Law Firm would be happy to discuss your workers’ compensation claim with you, free of charge and with no obligation.