--Ron Riggio, Professor of industrial psychology, Cal State Fullerton
Job-Loss Benefits Sometimes Overlap
Q: Can an employee who is injured on the job and receives workers' compensation also file for unemployment compensation? In other words, can he or she double dip? In New York state that is permitted. Can a worker do that here?
--F.Z., La Habra
A: To a certain extent, job-loss benefits do have overlapping benefits. For example, your own company may have a disability insurance plan that provides better coverage than what you might get through the workers' compensation system. Your workers' comp benefits might offset to a degree the greater benefits received under the private plan.
Also, disability benefits you might receive under the state system in the event of injury do not analyze whether such injury happened during the course of your employment. Thus, if you are ineligible for payments under the workers' comp program, you might get benefits through this other system. There also are different standards for Social Security benefits than for workers' comp.
In regard to unemployment compensation, the rule is "either one or the other." To receive jobless benefits, you must be able to show that you are ready and able to work. To gain compensation under the workers' comp rules, you need to show just the opposite. Some people file under both systems and let the state figure it out. In the event that one system says you are ineligible, then you would receive benefits from the other.
You may receive compensation through one of the governmental systems and also through a private claim. The reasons behind the job injury or job loss must be evaluated. If those reasons include discrimination or retaliation for complaining about some illegality or slander, you might have an additional basis to recover more money than would be provided by government benefits. In fact, those other claims might not only compensate for your wage loss but also give you the equivalent of punitive damages because of wrongful acts by your employer.
--Don D. Sessions, Employee rights attorney, Mission Viejo