Unemployment Compensation and Workers' Compensation. The award or receipt of unemployment compensation benefits by an employee is not a bar to the receipt of workers' compensation benefits under the law. However there are a few things one should know.
To obtain unemployment compensation benefits the employee must certify that the employee is ready, willing, available and able to work, but this does not necessarily mean that the employee is available or capable of performing the injured workers former duties. One can be disabled from their job they were performing at the time of injury but be capable of other types of work. Under these circumstances if the injured worker is partially disabled physically and receiving workers' compensation benefits, the employee may be able to perform other work such as light or modified duty employment. This qualifies the employee to receive unemployment compensation benefits and at the same time the injured worker may be entitled to benefits for total disability (or partial disability) under workers' compensation especially if the employer has not met the burden of proving light work is available to a partially physically disabled or injured employee.
Section 204(a), 77 P. S. Section 71(a) of the Workers' Compensation Act provides for a credit for unemployment compensation benefits received. This mandate cannot be waived by the employer, and the WCJ is required to reduce an award of benefits to an employee by the amount of unemployment compensation benefits received regardless of whether the employer requested the offset. Tus workmens compensation wage loss benefits are reduced by unemployment compensation.
However, Section 204 was amended to provide for a credit for the receipt of unemployment compensation benefits against any award of compensation not for a credit for benefits for specific loss under section 306 (c).
The policies underlying an award or disallowance of unemployment compensation benefits and workmens compensation benefits are not the same. Accordingly a determination by the unemployment compensation authorities that the employee was not guilty of willful misconduct and eligible for unemployment compensation did not preclude the employer under the doctrine of collateral estoppel from asserting the employees fault as the basis for denying a reinstatement petitions alleging a loss in earnings. For example if you are back to work at modified duty following a work injury and the employer let's you go due to your own fault but not amounting to willful misconduct and you collect unemployment you may not be entitled to workers compensation. Of course if you are on light duty following a work injury and your employer lays you off due to a lack of work and collect unemployment you may be entitled to workers compensation wage loss benefits also which ultimately may be reduced in part by the unemployment credit.
Significantly different procedures, policies and goals are at stake in workmens compensation proceedings than in the unemployment compensation setting. Even if the identical and material issue is present in both proceedings the findings in the unemployment compensation case does not necessarily preclude litigation of the issue in the workers' compensation case.
For questions about Unemployment compensation and Workers' Compensation contact the lawyers at Dugan & Associates, Lawyers representing Injured People, at 888-99-DUGAN.