Injured Employees Laid Off or Fired During the Coronavirus Crisis May Be Eligible for Wisconsin Workers Compensation

Many Wisconsin businesses have closed – either temporarily or permanently – due to the COVID-19 crisis. These closures, whether due to the Governor Evers’ Safer At Home Order, financial issues, or related safety concerns, have caused an unprecedented number of Wisconsin workers to suffer layoff or termination. Many of these laid off or terminated employees have temporary or permanent work restrictions caused by a previous work injury suffered with their now-closed employer, making it impossible for them to return to work if and when their former employer re-opens. This article discusses options for these injured workers.

If you have suffered a work injury at your current place of employment and your employer has now closed its doors due to the Coronavirus, you have a right to seek Wisconsin worker’s compensation benefits under the following circumstances:

Temporary Total Disability (TTD) Benefits May Provide Temporary Income

If you were working under temporary work restrictions – sometimes referred to as “light duty” limitations – at the time you were laid off or terminated, you have the right to receive temporary total disability (TTD) for each week until your employer calls you back to work.

TTD is paid at two-thirds of the average wage you had been earning at the time you were injured. For example, if you were earning $750/week at the time of your injury, TTD benefits would equal $500/week, on which you would pay no taxes.

In order to qualify for TTD during your layoff period, or after you were terminated, you must provide your employer or its insurance carrier (ideally both of them) with a copy of your current work restrictions, which a doctor must provide you. You should update your employer or its insurance carrier (again, ideally both) with work restrictions after each doctor’s appointment, even if unchanged from the prior visit. If your usual clinic is closed due to safety concerns related to COVID-19, your doctor may choose to continue the same modified work restrictions from your last visit until it is possible to set another appointment for re-evaluation.

Read Brandon Jubelirer’s TTD post for more details about temporary total disability.

Vocational Retraining or Loss of Earning Capacity Benefits

If you were working under permanent work restrictions related to a work injury at the time you were laid off or terminated, even if you were not still employed by the business at which you suffered the work injury, you may have the right to additional workers compensation benefits. Specifically, you may be eligible for vocational retraining benefits (re-education for less strenuous work) or loss of earning capacity benefits (to compensate you for future losses) if you are unable to find another job that pays you what you were earning at the time of your work injury.

In the face of an uncertain employment market, we encourage injured Wisconsin workers to apply for all benefits foe which they may be eligible as soon as possible to provide relief after a layoff from or termination of employment. With many employers unable to predict their re-opening dates, injured workers are more vulnerable than most.

Contact Us if Your Workers Comp Insurance Carrier Does Not Offer You These Benefits

It is unlikely that the worker’s compensation insurance carrier is going to contact you to offer either TTD, retraining or loss of earning capacity benefits that arise in the wake of Coronavirus. Often, workers must learn and assert their rights, with an attorney’s help if necessary, to secure benefits they have earned and are entitled to. Hawks Quindel has more attorneys practicing worker’s compensation law than any other Wisconsin firm. Contact us if you believe you may be entitled to the benefits described in this article, or if you have questions about your right to such benefits.

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Aaron Halstead