We often get asked whether a person can continue to work while receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
It depends on the nature of the work. If you get hurt on the job and collect workers’ compensation, and then get another job that is similar to your old one, your employer may claim that you should have to return to your old job or lose your benefits. Different jobs within your working restrictions may be fine, however.
Can I return to my old job while collecting workers’ compensation?
If your work injury was not serious, you may still be able to perform your old job. If your work restrictions allow for this, you would not receive workers’ compensation disability benefits. However, you would still have your medical care paid for in your workers’ comp case.
After a workplace injury, injured employees are entitled to benefits through their state’s workers’ compensation system. Every state has its own workers’ compensation law. However, under all state laws, by filing a workers’ compensation claim, you can recover two primary benefits:
- your medical expenses from the work-related injury or impairment, and
- your lost wages.
Both of these are paid for by your employer’s workers’ comp insurance company.
Lost wages are paid for with disability benefits. These generally cover a portion of the wages that you are no longer receiving because of your injury. In California, for example, you are entitled to two-thirds of your average weekly wage from before your injury.1
If your doctor does not put working restrictions on you, then you would not be losing wages. This can also happen if the working restrictions do not keep you from performing your old job. You would not be entitled to disability benefits through workers’ comp. You would still have your medical bills paid for, though.
What about receiving workers’ comp while on light duty?
More serious injuries can lead to work restrictions that do affect your role. In these cases, your employer may have light duty or a temporary adjusted work assignment for you. This role is designed to accommodate the limitations from your injury. However, it may be paid at a lower rate. It also may require fewer hours or be part-time. This can reduce your income.
That lost income would lead to disability benefits through workers’ comp. Those temporary partial disability benefits would cover a percentage of what was lost until you return to your usual job.
Having eligibility for light duty work can create conflict in your workers’ compensation case, though. Your employer may push you to resume the type of work you were originally hired to perform. Having an experienced workers’ compensation attorney from a reputable law firm on hand can ensure that your rights are preserved.
Can I get workers’ compensation benefits while working a second job?
You can receive workers’ compensation for an injury that happened on one job while working a second one. However, this scenario creates two important complications:
- your employer may use your second job as evidence that you can return to your first one in full capacity, and
- you must report your income from your second job.
Together, these complications can present a tricky situation for injured workers. However, the medical benefits and reduced wages can push injured workers into getting a new job while they recover from their personal injury, exposing them to risk.
Establishing an attorney-client relationship with a workers’ compensation lawyer can be especially important in these situations. They can help you make sure that you continue to benefit from your workers’ comp claim.
Your first employer may demand your return
Workers’ compensation provides compensation for your lost wages while you are unable to work. If you work a second job, it can show that you are capable of working. If the job duties of your second job are similar to the job you were hurt on, your employer may:
- demand that you return to work, and/or
- report you to their workers’ compensation insurance company to strip you of your disability benefits.
The theory is that, if you are able to work at your second job, then you should not be receiving compensation for lost wages from your first.
The details of your second job will matter a lot. If the working restrictions from your injury are physical, but your second job is not strenuous, then it might not get in the way of your benefits.
For example: Jason works 2 jobs: As a lifter in a warehouse and as a parking lot attendant. He hurts his back on the job in the warehouse. His doctor forbids him from lifting heavy objects or exerting force over shoulder height. Jason keeps working as a parking lot attendant. This requires him to sit in a booth for long periods of time and occasionally walk around the lot. He would likely still be eligible for workers’ comp for his warehouse job.
Importantly, if your injury from your first job also keeps you out of your second job, you can recover disability benefits for wages lost at the second job.
You must report your income from your second job
If you have a second job when you get hurt at your primary job, or if you get a second job while recovering from your injury, you must report your income from the second job. If you do not, you may commit workers’ compensation fraud.
In some cases, it is in your interest to report your second job’s income. This is primarily true if you have 2 jobs and your injury at one of them prevents you from working the other. When this happens, your workers’ compensation disability benefits cover your wage loss from both jobs.
In other cases, it can reduce your benefits to report your other income. If you get hurt at one job and then get hired to perform a nearly identical job, reporting your new income can raise questions about your ability to work. This can lead to allegations that you are receiving workers’ comp benefits that you should not be receiving. This is workers’ compensation fraud.
Workers’ compensation fraud is the crime of providing false or misleading information in order to receive benefits that you are not entitled to. It carries steep penalties. In California, for example, it carries up to 5 years in prison and fines of up to $150,000 or twice the amount that was deceitfully received, whichever is higher.2
- California Labor Code 4653 LAB.
- California Insurance Code 1871.4 INS.