Can I Quit My Job While I’m On Workers’ Compensation?
A serious work injury can be a life-changing event that affects an injured person’s finances, the kind of work they can do (if any at all), and their quality of life. Clients sometimes ask us whether they will continue to get Vermont workers’ compensation benefits if they quit their job. Our advice is to look carefully at your situation before you quit because it can affect your benefits.
Why Injured Workers Quit
Why does an injured worker consider quitting? There are many reasons. Sometimes their supervisor can’t or won’t accommodate their medical restrictions. Or maybe they are only able to work part time after their injury, but they need to earn more money. Perhaps their job is too hard or too painful to do with an injury. And sometimes, they are overwhelmed by the demands of juggling their job, their injury, their workers’ compensation claim, and their family or personal needs.
Quitting Can Affect Your Benefits
Let’s look at three situations that a worker with an accepted Vermont workers’ compensation claim can find themselves in. Each can have different outcomes if the worker quits their job.
Situation 1: Not Yet Returned to Work Or Returned With Restrictions
An injured Vermont worker is entitled to get wage replacement benefits while they are recovering from an injury. These are called temporary total disability (TTD) payments if the worker is not able to go back to work yet, or temporary partial disability (TPD) payments if they have returned to work but are working part time or with restrictions.
A claimant typically cannot quit their job while they are getting wage replacement benefits. Since wage replacement benefits are tied to employment, the worker would lose these benefits if they leave because they would no longer have wages to replace. They will also likely lose other benefits that they might get through their job, such as health insurance, 401k, or entitlement to accrue time or have leave time paid out.
The situation is different if a worker is let go while on worker’ compensation. If an employer fires or lays off an injured worker while the worker is out on workers’ compensation or is working with restrictions or limited hours due to the injury, the worker is entitled to keep getting their workers’ compensation benefits until they reach maximum medical end or return to work. They are entitled to a full wage replacement benefit because they are no longer working.
Situation 2: Returned to Work With No Restrictions
A person who has returned to work with no restrictions after an injury is still entitled to certain workers’ compensation benefits. These include ongoing medical benefits for the accepted injury, permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits if applicable, and possible temporary total disability (TTD) benefits if they become unable to work in future due to their work injury (imagine they go out to have surgery, for example). These benefits are explained in more detail on our Workers' Compensation Benefits page.
This worker can safely change jobs without losing any of their workers’ compensation benefits. The insurance company covering the work injury remains responsible for paying the worker’s medical bills related to the injury and any PPD benefits they are awarded as well as any other workers’ compensation benefits that may become due. Changing jobs after a work injury and full return to work therefore has no effect on a person’s entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits.
Situation 3: Never Returning to Work
Some workers are so severely injured that they are incapable of going back to work at all. They may be considered to be permanently and totally disabled. In this case, they might be entitled to receive permanent total disability (PTD) benefits from their employer’s insurance. These are payments that continue for the worker’s lifetime.
This very valuable benefit—which most insurance companies won’t tell a worker about—can bring great relief to the worker and their family, but it is not easy to get. A claimant must provide specific legal proof that they are unable to work. Most people cannot navigate this on their own. Their best option is to get professional help from an experienced Vermont workers’ compensation attorney.
A worker in this situation should never ever quit or “retire” from their job until they have consulted with a workers’ compensation attorney. If they do, they may be giving up a lifetime of wage replacement benefits. If a worker is not sure whether they are in this situation, it’s best to call a lawyer and find out before taking action. A retirement or a voluntary quit can’t be undone.
What’s the Right Action for You?
While it might be tempting to leave your job after an injury—especially if your work was heavy and your injury was serious enough that you think you cannot continue to do your job—this might not be the best option for you. In some situations, it could cause you to lose your workers’ compensation benefits, or even a lifetime of wage replacement benefits.
Before making the choice to quit or change jobs after you have been hurt, call Biggam Fox Skinner at 802-455-9141 and talk to a lawyer about your claim for free. You can also contact us through email, or chat with us using the Chat feature on this page. We help injured workers protect the benefits they should be getting. Don’t get cheated out of what is yours.