Often times after an individual is hurt on the job they end up off work for a period of time while their injuries heal. When this happens, the injured worker can be entitled to collect temporary total disability compensation to compensate them for the loss of earnings while recovering from the work related injuries sustained. Occasionally, injuries sustained end up being so severe that an injured worker is awarded permanently and totally disabled compensation for their impairment of earning capacity.
While the two benefits are completely different and have entirely different eligibility standards, what the two forms of compensation have in common is an injured worker’s inability to work while collecting the benefits. An individual is FORBIDDEN from working in ANY capacity, not just the job the individual was doing when injured, but any type of work whatsoever. What does it mean to be working? This is a critical question and one that varies from case to case. This can range from performing services for pay for a different employer (for example, injured while working for “Employer A” and then continuing to work for “Employer B”) to collecting a stipend while continuing your education to even providing services without pay, such as helping a friend with their business.
Any time the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) receives a report that an injured worker collecting benefits may also be working, the BWC will conduct a thorough investigation. The BWC will not only investigate whether an injured worker is receiving pay for services rendered, but will also investigate whether the injured worker is engaging in activities inconsistent with their restrictions and limitations associated with the work-related injuries. If as a result of the investigation an injured worker is found to be working or performing activities inconsistent with the receipt of compensation, BWC will aggressively pursue an overpayment of the compensation paid and a finding of fraud. If the Industrial Commission finds there is sufficient evidence to declare an overpayment and a finding of fraud, the injured worker can then potentially face civil and criminal penalties as well.
Rule of thumb: while collecting temporary or permanent total disability compensation, it’s best not to engage in services for pay and/or activities inconsistent with your limitations. If you return to work while collecting either benefit, you MUST notify BWC IMMEDIATELY. As with all things associated with workers’ compensation in Ohio, there are many gray areas associated with this and it is always best to seek the advice of an attorney. Gallon, Takacs, Boissoneault & Schaffer Co., L.P.A. has attorneys that can assist with your workers’ compensation case and the initial consultation is always free.