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Workers Rights During a Shutdown

A sign up during a shutdown that reads Closed Due to COVID-19

In late March when Pennsylvania and surrounding states issued stay-at-home orders, many businesses were forced to close down temporarily or even reduce their workforce. If your employer was one of those businesses, but you were injured before they closed, you may have questions about your rights and what ongoing benefits you are entitled to receive during the shutdown.

Was your injury “accepted” before the shutdown?

In Pennsylvania if you have an accepted workers’ compensation claim your employer has an obligation to provide work for you within the restrictions of your doctor. If your employer is unwilling or unable to provide work within your restrictions then you are entitled to receive workers’ compensation wage loss benefits from either the employer or insurance carrier.

Even though insurance companies may claim otherwise, our firm’s position is that this holds true if your employer cannot or will not provide work for you because of the shutdown. If your employer closes or tells you they cannot provide work within your restrictions because of the shutdown, we will fight to get you your rightful workers’ compensation wage loss benefits. 

Will the insurance company voluntarily pay wage benefits if my light duty or modified duty job is lost due to the shutdown?

This can be a tricky situation and is subject to multiple interpretations. Insurance companies do not always voluntarily do what they are supposed to do. The employer/insurance company may tell you to file for unemployment compensation instead of reinstating you to temporary total disability status. If this happens, feel free to contact us immediately to discuss your options — there is never a charge for us to answer your questions or evaluate your claim.

Unemployment compensation generally pays at a lower rate than workers’ compensation wage loss benefits. Accepting unemployment over workers’ comp could place you in an even more difficult financial situation and could let the insurance company off the hook for something that they are responsible for. Additionally, choosing the route of unemployment benefits over workers’ compensation could jeopardize the status of your claim and possibly your ability to go back on workers comp after the Shutdown ends without resistance by the employer/insurance company.

I was injured before the shutdown but my claim has been denied, what can I do?

If you were injured at work prior to the shutdown and your claim was denied at the outset or has since been denied, feel free to contact us immediately. Your right to pursue workers’ compensation benefits has not been affected by the shutdown. The workers’ compensation courts are open for business and petitions to seek benefits can be filed electronically. The same rules apply now as before the shutdown, including the statute of limitations and other deadlines.

If your duties and obligations under the Workers’ Compensation Act are not fulfilled, you could be jeopardizing your rights and benefits.

If you are injured at work, report the injury immediately to your employer, comply with initial treatment requirements and be a good historian (document everything). 

What if I am furloughed or laid off?

If you have an accepted work injury and you have been furloughed or laid-off from your light duty or modified duty job, our firm believes you are entitled to workers’ compensation wage loss benefits.

However, this could change if during the furlough or lay-off period your employer elects to pay you some or all of your wages. It is very important in this situation to contact an attorney who handles workers comp claims day-in and day-out to discuss your options. At Georgelis Injury Law Firm, we can help and are always available — even through the COVID-19 pandemic — to answer your questions, give you our thoughts and provide guidance and advice. 

Filing for Unemployment

Many clients wonder if they should file for unemployment if their employer is in a shutdown due to coronavirus. You may qualify for unemployment if you were laid off, or, possibly, if you quit due to reasonable fear of contracting COVID-19.

But, if you are currently collecting worker’s compensation or have been injured and want to file a claim, give us a call for a free, no-obligation assessment of your options. Your long-term health and financial welfare are of paramount importance to us, and we will fight to get you the income loss and medical benefits you are entitled to, to protect you and your family.  

Defining Terms: Furloughs vs. Layoffs

In addition to observing a shutdown, if your employer has officially notified you that your position has been furloughed or eliminated, it’s important to understand what that means.

  • Furloughs are only intended to last for a set period of term. Employees are expected to return to work once that period ends.
  • Furloughed workers are restricted from working during that period of time.
  • Furloughed workers can retain certain benefits during the no-work period.
  • Layoffs are a specific process and can lead to the employee no longer working or retaining benefits.
  • Employees who are laid off can qualify for unemployment.
  • The positions vacated through layoffs may or may not be refilled.

More Questions? Call for a Free Discussion and Evaluation of your Claim.

This can be a confusing time, especially if you were out on worker’s compensation or were recently injured on the job. Georgelis Injury Law Firm is here to help. Call us for a free, no-obligation consultation at 1-800-HURT-NOW and we’ll answer your questions and give you much-needed and deserved peace-of-mind to get you through these uncertain times.

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