The Blog

What happens to my workers’ compensation benefits if I’m incarcerated?

Section 306 (a)(2) of the Pa WC Act allows an employer to suspend an injured workers’ wage loss benefits if they are incarcerated following a conviction. Medical benefits for the work injury continue but wage loss benefits stop. The incarceration MUST follow a conviction, not merely an arrest. House arrest following a conviction is viewed the same as formal incarceration behind bard and likewise results in the suspension of wage loss benefits. Release to a halfway house and/or a drug or alcohol recovery facility has the same affect and will also result in a suspension of compensation. An employer does not have to file a formal Suspension Petition in order to suspend an injured workers’ wage loss benefits following incarceration after a conviction. This provision of the Act is self-executing meaning the employer can suspend compensation without a Judge’s Order once they learn of the injured workers’ incarceration and, the injured worker has the same right once the period of incarcerations ends. In the latter situation, the injured worker is entitled to an automatic reinstatement of their wage loss benefits once released from their incarceration without having to wait for a Judge to order the reinstatement of benefits. The logic behind this provision of the Act is that an injured worker should not be entitled to wage loss benefits if they removed themselves from the possibility of returning to work by committing a crime and, getting convicted for it. This seems fair but this issue creates a lot of litigation because employers and insurance carriers are reluctant to reinstate compensation for a convicted felon. If this unfortunate circumstance happens to you, we strongly recommend that you get advice from an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer so that your right to compensation is protected.    

View Comments

“No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

“No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

This quote tells us all to respect and honor hard work no matter the job. All manner of hard work requires a strong work ethic and the commitment to do something to the best of your ability. We all rely on each other in some way. It is important to teach our children and remind ourselves that no job is too small.

Hard work is the common thread that binds our society together. Please remember to acknowledge and honor all the people around you who are working hard everyday. 

View Comments

Does being an illegal alien or an undocumented worker prevent me from getting workers’ compensation?

No, the mere fact that you are not in the USA legally does not prevent you from collecting compensation under the Pa WC Act. But, there are a number of things that you should be aware of if you are an undocumented worker.

First, your undocumented status could be revealed during the litigation of your claim. If this information gets into the hands of INS, you could be deported.

Second, wages are many times paid in cash to undocumented workers which will likely create an issue with the IRS because no taxes were paid on this income.

Third, the employer is less likely to bring you back to work after you recover from your work injury if he discovers during the litigation of your compensation claim that you are undocumented.

Fourth, in order for an employer to suspend an undocumented worker’s compensation, the employer only has to show that the injured worker was medically cleared for some work. The employer does not have to show that he has a job opening that the undocumented worker could do or, show job availability through a Labor Market Survey ( LMS ) because it’s presumed that work isn’t available to the undocumented injured worker due their undocumented status. In contrast, with an injured worker who is legally in the USA, the employer would first have to show that the injured worker was cleared medically for some kind of work, and then show that the employer has a job within the injured worker’s restrictions or, show job availability through a LMS. 

The issues involved in the litigation of compensation claims with undocumented workers tend to be complex. For instance, an employer cannot force an undocumented worker to waive his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination by asking him to admit his undocumented status in court. The employer must get this information into evidence by some other means if they intend to use it limit the claim. It is important that you get advice from an experienced workers’ compensation attorney if you find yourself in this situation.   

View Comments

Can I move out-of-state or leave the country while I’m receiving workers’ compensation benefits?

Yes, you can but not without some issues. First, getting medical treatment for your work injury out-of-state or outside the USA can be difficult. Many non-PA medical providers refuse to accept the reimbursement rate applicable to ALL medical providers who treat an injured worker under the PA WC Act. The reimbursement rate under the Act is not a dollar for dollar reimbursement of the fee charged by the doctor. In other words, the doctor isn’t entitled to get the full amount that they charge. Instead, a doctor who treats an injured worker under PA WC Act is only entitled to 113% of the current Medicare reimbursement rate which is established by the Federal government. If you treat outside of PA, the doctor is not subject to this reimbursement limitation so the doctor can bill you for his full rate. But, the PA comp carrier is only going to pay the reduced rate per the Act which many out-of-state doctors won’t accept. These payment issues can make it difficult for injured workers who move outside of PA to get medical treatment for their work injury.

Second, moving outside of PA will make it easier for your employer to try and stop your benefits. For example, if your employer decides to do vocational rehabilitation to show that there are other jobs that you can do despite your work restrictions, the law only requires that they show the availability of that work in the general geographic area where your injury occurred. If you’re out-of-state, that job could be several hundred miles away. You’re also obligated to continue to submit to IME’s at least once every six (6) months. The carrier can bring you back to PA for these exams as long as they’re willing to pay for your travel expenses. If the IME doctor finds you fully recovered and the comp carrier files a Termination Petition against you to stop your comp checks, you’re going to need a doctor to support your ongoing disability to defeat the petition which might be difficult because of the out-of-state treatment issues previously mentioned.    

Case law has also established that if you move out of the country while you’re on workers’ compensation benefits, an employer can petition to suspend your wage loss benefits based on the argument that you voluntarily removed yourself from the workforce. In other words, by moving outside of the USA, you have effectively eliminated the employer’s ability to offer you work with them within your restrictions or, to show that there is work generally available in PA with another employer that you could despite your restrictions. 

Neither your employer nor the workers’ compensation insurance carrier can prevent you from leaving PA while you’re on compensation but, this decision could have some very serious ramifications.

View Comments