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Can I Apply for a New Job While on Workers' Comp?

Law Office Of John Adams Christiansen, LC Jan. 12, 2023

Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system used nationwide and governed by the laws of each state to provide compensation for medical treatment and lost wages for employees injured on the job or who fall ill due to workplace conditions such as toxic exposure. Since it is no fault, the employee cannot sue the employer for the injury or illness but must rely on the workers’ compensation insurance coverage retained by the company.  

In Missouri, for the most part, any employer with five or more employees or one or more employees in the construction industry must carry workers’ compensation insurance. However, an employer (outside of construction) who has four employees and chooses not to purchase workers’ compensation insurance, for example, would exit the no-fault system and be subject to lawsuits.  

If you're an employee in or around Kansas City, Missouri, receiving workers’ compensation benefits because you are not physically or mentally able to return to your former duties and want to seek a new job, contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. Our team at the Law Office Of John Adams Christiansen, LC, can provide you with helpful legal guidance. With three decades of experience in fighting for people’s rights under workers’ compensation, our attorney will evaluate your situation and advise you of the best options going forward.  

The Law Office Of John Adams Christiansen, LC,  serves clients in Blue Springs, Independence, Raytown, Lee’s Summit, Grain Valley, and Belton, Missouri. 

Considerations When Seeking a New Job While on Workers’ Compensation  

Workers’ compensation is covered under Chapter 287 of the Labor and Industrial Relations statute. It actually provides compensation for lost wages on two jobs if you have multiple employers when injured on one job. The statute states that “the employee's total average weekly wage shall be equal to the sum of the total of the average weekly wage computed separately for each employment...”   

But what if you take a second job while out on workers’ compensation?   

Let’s say an employee cannot work in a warehouse because of a physical limitation due to injury. Workers’ compensation would cover the employee’s medical expenses and generally pay two-thirds of their average weekly wages before the injury.  

However, two-thirds isn’t cutting it. You may have made $1,000 a week prior to suffering an injury, but the system is now paying out only $667. You need more to provide for the necessities of life, so you seek work that you can do to make up for the gap. What will the workers’ compensation insurance company do with your benefits if you take another job?  

As for providing medical coverage, that should continue even if you take another job until you are physically or mentally recovered, or until you’ve reached the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI), meaning nothing more can be done medically to improve your condition.  

As for the new income, the insurer might decide to deduct from what you’re receiving from lost wages or factor in a percentage to lower your payment. Depending on the nature of your new work, the employer and insurer might also argue that you can return to your former position or that your employer can offer you the same type of light-duty work.  

Generally, under Missouri law, if you take a light-duty position while you recover from your injury or illness, you will be paid two-thirds of the difference in income between the two positions.   

Say you made $1,000 a week prior to the injury, and now you make $600 a week on light duty with your employer or elsewhere. You should be eligible to receive two-thirds of the difference of $400, or $266 plus change, which at a total of $866 or so would bring you closer to the $1,000 a week you formerly earned.  

Again, your best bet is to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney before seeking or taking on a new job while on workers’ compensation. If the insurance company is suspicious of your new job, they may hire an investigator to surveil you. If it looks like you can return to your form position fully able to perform to standards, you could have a problem. 

Steps to Take With a New Job While on Workers’ Comp 

The most important step is to keep everything open. You don’t want to try to hide your new job from the insurance company or your former employer. As just mentioned, they can get suspicious and investigate. You may find yourself forfeiting lost-wage benefits if you’re found to be capable of resuming your previous position. Or you may have to pay back some benefits already received if you continue to collect under the table from another employer, so to speak.  

Make sure that you get medical clearance to take on the new job, and also make sure that your employer cannot offer you a similar light-duty position. Keep the insurance company informed of what you’re doing. Fill out any required paperwork and submit any requested medical documentation. 

Rely on Experienced Counsel and Advice 

You cannot be fired from your position simply because you go on workers’ compensation, but if you are caught up in deceit or outright fraud, your job could be in jeopardy. Therefore, it is always essential in making any decision regarding taking on a new job while out on workers’ compensation to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney.  

In Kansas City, Missouri, and neighboring communities, rely on the Law Office Of John Adams Christiansen, LC, for all your questions and concerns about workers’ compensation. With more than 2,000 workers’ compensation cases under our belt, we know the system and can advise and help you obtain the benefits you need and deserve.