You are highly skilled and respected in your chosen trade. You have also been a loyal employee for over 9 years. Despite being safety conscious, while working one day, you receive a devastating injury. The doctor says you could be sidelined for over a year before you might be able to return to work. Now what?
Fortunately, you will have the benefits of Workers’ Compensation to help with your medical bills and limp along financially until you can return to work. But you were in line for a raise in the next few months because of your skill level and the company automatically gives you a big bump at 10 years. What is going to happen to these benefits? This is your career and your company was mostly to blame for your accident.
What your company owes you and what it does not
Workers’ Compensation laws are a compromise between employers and the government dating back over 100 years. Workplace safety and workers’ rights have come a long way during this time even though both sides are sometimes frustrated with the results.
Under current law, your company is required to carry workers’ comp insurance to assure that workplace injuries don’t financially cripple the victims. However, while you are not working for the company and are collecting workers compensation, they are not required to continue extending any of your benefits, including health insurance. Under current and pending law, you would be able to pick up your health policy but it wouldn’t be extended to you as a benefit.
What about my raise?
The only raise you are entitled to under workers’ compensation are any raises which would naturally come to you based on experience and seniority. Your weekly workers’ compensation can be adjusted based on the following guidelines from the General Laws of Massachusetts:
CHAPTER 152, Section 51
Whenever an employee is injured under circumstances entitling him to compensation, if it be established that the injured employee was of such age and experience when injured that, under natural conditions, in the open labor market, his wage would be expected to increase, that fact may be considered in determining his weekly wage. A determination of an employee’s benefits under this section shall not be limited to the circumstances of the employee’s particular employer or industry at the time of injury.
This means that the only raise you can receive under workers compensation are raises that you would normally expect in your profession for your experience no matter which company you worked for. However, the increase your company offers you at 10 years is off the table now and won’t affect your weekly workers’ compensation. The only pay raise you are entitled to is contained in Section 51. Your company’s pay increase schedule doesn’t factor in at all.
Heading back to work?
When you are healthy and ready to go back to work, you may find that your position has been filled. Your employer isn’t required by law to hire you back when there are no openings available. If a position does open up, your employer is required to give you preferential treatment above all other applicants, however.
Also, if you are rehired, it is up to the company whether or not they honor your 9 years of service. Your 10-year increase just might be another 10 years away.
Can that be right?
But wait; it was their fault. Why should I have to pay for their mistake?
Some aspects of workers’ compensation law may seem draconian and unfair. But you don’t have to take your employer’s word for it. Your Massachusetts Workers’ Comp Attorney can help you make sure you have been fairly dealt with and see that you receive all the benefits you have earned.