When an individual finds himself out of a job, the government provides some social safety nets and assistance. If a person can't work due to a work-related injury, he may collect workers' compensation benefits from his employer. If he lost his job through a layoff, or for a reason that was otherwise no fault of his own, he may qualify for unemployment benefits. Should an individual attempt to collect both, however, there may be some limitations and restrictions.
What Is Worker's Compensation?
Almost all state governments require businesses who hire employees to subscribe to state workers' compensation insurance programs. This insurance guarantees that a worker who is injured on the job will receive payment for all medical care related to the injury. In many cases, the worker may also be eligible for cash reimbursement for any wages lost due to the injury. The only exception is Texas, where employers may opt out of the state workers' comp insurance programs. Texas still requires these businesses to choose their own private workers' disability insurance. Qualification criteria for receiving workers' comp, as it's commonly known, varies from state to state, but at minimum, almost all programs guarantee a worker full medical care for any injury acquired while on the job.
Who Qualifies for Unemployment Benefits?
Unemployment benefits are a monetary reimbursement payment program that an individual receives after being fired, laid off or otherwise let go from a job. An employer who fires or lays off any employee for which he has paid more than $1,500 in wages must pay into the state's unemployment benefits program, which will pay the worker a weekly cash stipend. Unemployment benefits are a state program, therefore, eligibility requirements vary from state to state. In general, an individual must have worked for the employer for a pre-set amount of time. The worker must not have quit the job or left of his own free will, nor is he able to turn down any reasonable offer of work while receiving unemployment benefits. Some states require that unemployment benefits recipients participate in job searches with the state unemployment agency.
Collecting Worker's Comp and Unemployment
In general, an individual can't receive both workers' comp and unemployment benefits at the same time. Unemployment benefits are based on the presupposition that an individual was fired or let go from a viable job. Workers' compensation benefits are for individuals are medically unable to work due to a workplace injury. In other words, if you can work, you can't receive workers' comp; if you can't work, you can't receive unemployment.
However, some states do allow a worker who is injured on the job and is laid off while receiving workers' compensation benefits to apply for unemployment benefits as well. In these states, generally, an employer receives a credit for the amount of unemployment benefits she pays this worker, which she can apply toward the amount she is paying under workers' comp for the same worker, or vice versa, whichever the worker has applied for first. For example, if she pays $400 per week in workers' comp payments to the worker, and the state unemployment agency determines the worker is entitled to a $150 per week unemployment benefit, the employer may deduct the $150 as a credit to the workers' comp amount. The worker will still receive $400 per week in total, only from two separate programs instead of one.
Other Public Assistance
While a worker generally can't receive both workers' compensation and unemployment benefits simultaneously, the same isn't true of receiving one of these programs alongside other public assistance, such as Medicaid, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, food stamps, disaster relief and Social Security Disability Insurance. Guidelines and eligibility requirements vary from state to state, but generally speaking, you can receive either workers' comp or unemployment benefits, and still qualify for other public benefits programs for which you meet the household income eligibility requirements.