Worker's compensation and unemployment often go hand-in-hand because a worker injured on the job may be unable to work during the time he or she is still covered by the worker's compensation insurance. This often leads to confusion for the worker because they are not often given an explanation from their employer about what they can lawfully recover in the form of benefits. When an employee is receiving worker's compensation benefits during the healing period, or when the employee is supposed to be off of work to heal from the work injury, they are not allowed to also receive unemployment benefits. Not only is this double-dipping into both the work comp and unemployment benefit systems, but one must be "willing, able, and available" to work in order to receive unemployment benefits. A worker cannot both be "healing" and "able" to work; that is why worker's compensation benefits exist for the healing period.
Additionally, a worker cannot receive healing period benefits (or temporary total disability benefits) once the worker has returned to work. Sometimes, an employee will be off work due to the work injury or related surgery. During this time, the worker's compensation insurance should pay these healing period benefits. Once the employee is released to return to work, however, the healing period benefits should stop as the worker is now receiving either full or partial wages and the healing period is over. Issues arise when the employee is now working for a different employer than they were at the time of the injury, such that going back to work does not trigger the same type of notice to the original employer and worker's compensation carrier. Clients may not realize that they must inform their attorney or the original employer and worker's compensation carrier that they have returned to work, in order to give notice that the healing period is over and benefits should cease at this time. Other times, employees may be aware of this rule, but choose not to notify anyone in order to continue to receive extra money in the form of healing period benefits. This is not allowed and the employee will be held accountable in the form of a credit should any settlement be agreed upon at a later date, and the employee's credibility will be questioned. Credibility is essential in a worker's compensation case and doing anything that can compromise this can be very detrimental. Pit falls such as these are something employees should be aware of when receiving workers' compensation benefits.