It’s a situation all too common in Workers’ Compensation claims.  You have been injured at work and expect to fully recover.  Your employer has offered you a job while you recover from your injury, but it pays less than what you made before your injury.  Do you have to take the job, and if you do can you still receive benefits to make up the difference between your old pay and your new, smaller paycheck?

Under North Carolina Workers’ Compensation law an employee who suffers an injury she is expected to recover from, and is offered a lesser paying position by an employer while in recovery, may be obligated to take that job in order to qualify for benefits.  Whether or not one is obligated to take the offered job, and how much the benefits would be under that new job, are two separate yet related issues a Workers’ Compensation lawyer can help you address.

To begin with, an injured employee who suffers from a partial disability but refuses what the North Carolina General Statutes define as “suitable employment” may be denied Workers’ Compensation benefits.  This means that, depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, it may be unwise to refuse to accept a new job offered by an employer, even if that job pays less than you are used to making.  A refusal to accept a lesser paying job that qualifies as suitable employment will be used as grounds to deny an applicant benefits.  However, if the job being offered by your employer fails to meet the definition of “suitable employment,” or an applicant has other suitable employment lined up while she recovers, then an applicant may qualify for benefits without being obligated to accept the work.

As can be imagined, the question of whether a job is “suitable employment” is a frequently litigated issue in North Carolina.  The decision to accept lesser paying employment while one recovers from a compensable injury is an important one, with serious consequences for the wrong decision.  An injured employee faced with such a decision would be wise to consult a skilled Workers’ Compensation lawyer to determine if a job being offered is suitable to that employee’s situation.

If you do decide to keep working for your employer in a position that pays less than your previous position, you are entitled to receive benefits to help offset the difference.  North Carolina calculates these benefits by first finding the difference between the employee’s pre-injury average weekly wage and lesser, post-injury average weekly wage, and then multiplying this number by 66 2/3%.  So, for example, a full time worker making $20/hour would earn an average weekly wage of $800 per week.  If that worker suffers an injury and is offered full time suitable employment at $15/hour, he would make a new wage of $600 per week.  His benefits would be ($800 – $600) X 66 2/3% or $133.33.  This would mean that the injured employee would make a total of $733.33 per week, ($600 in weekly wage + $133.33 in benefits) or roughly $67 less than he made prior to his injury.

If you have questions concerning your workers’ compensation claim contact Miller Law Group for a free consultation.