No, the Pennsylvania Worker’s Comp Act does not include any protection of your job title, employment benefits or even a job with your employer. Rather, you are entitled to wage loss checks when you are out of work for the injury or when you are in a lower paying job because of the work injury.
What Does the Workers’ Compensation Act Require My Employer to Cover?
The Workers’ Comp Act requires your employer to pay for medical bills that are related to the work injury, but does not require your employer to continue paying for your health insurance or other benefits when you are off of work for a work injury.
If you do not have one, you should ask your employer for a copy of an Employee Handbook or their policy regarding whether your specific employer voluntarily agrees to continue benefits for injured workers, and how they handle keeping any job positions open for a while. Again, employers are not required to do this, but many employers do voluntarily agree to maintain benefits or a job position for some period of time.
Will My Position be Held for Me While I am Healing from a Work Injury?
If you want your pre-injury job position to be held open, you should talk to your employer or their Human Resources officer about FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act). The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is a United States federal law requiring covered employers to provide employees with job-protected and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons. FMLA provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that their group health benefits be maintained during the leave. If and when your employer wants to cut off your medical benefits, they should give you advance notice and offer you the opportunity to continue health insurance at your expense.
You may have rights in this regard under the COBRA law (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act). COBRA is a federal law that may let you keep your employer group health plan coverage for a limited time after your employment ends or after you would otherwise lose coverage. This is called “continuation coverage.” In general, COBRA only applies to employers with 20 or more employees.
HOW LONG DOES AN EMPLOYER HAVE TO HOLD YOUR JOB FOR WORKERS’ COMPENSATION?
An employer does not have to hold your job while you’re on workers’ compensation. If your company needs to hire someone to do the job in your place, it can replace you and offer you a suitable replacement job. You won’t receive any enhanced worker protection laws when you receive workers’ compensation or are out of the job due to injury. You’ll remain an at-will employee.
An at-will employee can be fired at any time and for any reason except one that violates the person’s civil rights. At-will employment also means you have the freedom to resign at any time, for any reason.
DOES WORKERS’ COMP PROTECT MY JOB IN PENNSYLVANIA?
While you can be fired or laid off while you’re collecting workers’ compensation, you can’t be fired because you filed for workers’ compensation. That’s a critical distinction and makes a difference in your case.
Your employer cannot say that the cause of your firing was the injury that led you to file for workers’ comp or that you were fired because you attempted to get these benefits. If employers could do that, lots of workers would likely be fired or laid off because employers’ insurance companies don’t want to pay. This action would be a form of illegal retaliation.
If you have been fired and suspect that it was illegal retaliation, you should consult with an attorney. While workers’ comp job protection in Pennsylvania doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have a job when you return from your injury, it does protect you from being fired due to the injury, and an experienced lawyer can assist you with determining whether your employer acted within the law.
DOES MY EMPLOYER HAVE TO HOLD MY JOB WHILE I’M ON WORKERS’ COMP?
No, but you can still receive workers’ compensation benefits after you’ve been terminated. Even after someone has been fired or laid off, the insurance company remains responsible for paying a portion of their salary and medical bills. However, you may be able to apply for Family Medical Leave Act protection by requesting FMLA protection by filing an FMLA application with your Human Resources or similar department. If approved, FMLA may protect your right to re-employment for a limited time only.
CAN I LOSE MY HEALTH INSURANCE WHILE RECEIVING WORKS’ COMP IN PENNSYLVANIA?
Yes, you can lose your health insurance while on workers’ comp in Pennsylvania. The commonwealth does not have a law protecting those benefits while you recover from your injury. Your employer can choose to stop paying your health insurance premiums, except in very rare cases.
There are two major exceptions to this rule:
- Your employment contract is part of a collective bargaining agreement that stipulates your employer must continue to pay health insurance if a worker becomes injured on the job. In this case, your employer must pay your premiums while you recover on workers’ compensation.
- You apply to use up to 12 weeks of Family Medical Leave Act time, as outlined above, during your workers’ comp period. FMLA is available to workers who have been at the company at least a year and accumulated at least 1,250 hours on the job during the previous 12 months before applying. Employers must have at least 50 employees to be eligible for FMLA. Under the act, you will continue to receive health insurance benefits throughout your leave period.
DO I STILL HAVE TO PAY FOR MY HEALTH INSURANCE PREMIUMS WHILE I’M ON WORKERS’ COMP?
Yes. If you contributed to your health insurance premiums before you got hurt, you will still have to pay while you’re on workers’ comp. If you are approved for FMLA, you may be charged for your health insurance.
DOES WORKERS’ COMP PROTECT OTHER BENEFITS YOU RECEIVED WITH YOUR JOB?
Many people wonder, does Pennsylvania workers’ compensation protect my job and my benefits if I get injured? As we’ve discussed, your job is not protected, and neither are your health benefits. Your other benefits may not be protected either, such as your accrued vacation time or employer matching for your 401(K).
Your employee handbook may explain what happens in these situations, or your human resources department may have some information. Just keep in mind that when a company is not obligated to pay you, many times it won’t. Don’t count on getting any benefits that you have not checked on ahead of time. Otherwise, you could be in the vulnerable position of believing you will get something that doesn’t arrive.
Your best approach would be to discuss your concerns with an attorney and see what you can learn. Our office has much experience with these types of questions, and we can offer accurate guidance on a case-by-case basis.
CAN I GET SOCIAL SECURITY OR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS WHILE ON WORKERS’ COMP?
You should consult with an attorney to determine your eligibility for additional benefits. They can discuss the answer with you based on the specifics of your case. In some situations, you may be eligible to receive Social Security and/or unemployment with workers’ comp. But many factors could affect your eligibility. Sometimes, your workers’ comp may be decreased if you collect these benefits. Or your Social Security or unemployment payments may be reduced.
CONTACT US TODAY TO DISCUSS YOUR WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CASE
It’s natural to wonder about the status of your employment after you’ve been injured. You may feel frustrated about how long it’s taking for your case to resolve or wonder why the insurance company seems to be dragging its feet. Do you still have questions about your job and whether it will be there for you after your injury has healed? If so, the lawyers at Frommer D’Amico can help.
We take only workers’ compensation cases, and we represent the employee, never the employer. Our depth of knowledge and experience has assisted many hard-working people just like you. We offer low fees, will come to your home to meet, and have certified experts in workers’ compensation who are ready to fight for you. We provide personalized attention to every case.
Joe D’Amico has more than 20 years of experience fighting for injured workers. He is Certified as an Expert in Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Law by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Joe is one of the very few Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorneys who have obtained a recovery in excess of $1.5 million for an injured worker.
Reviewed by Joe D’Amico.