People often have questions about what a workers compensation settlement is and how it affects them. One way that a workers compensation can affect you is your employment status.
Many workers compensation settlements require people workers to quit their jobs as part of the settlement. Many people wonder whether insurance companies are really allowed to do this and if there is a law that prevents them from doing this.
Understanding the settlement process is important. This article discusses whether you have to quit your job when you settle a Georgia workers compensation case.
Does Georgia’s workers compensation law require me to quit my job as part of a settlement?
No. Georgia’s workers compensation laws do not require that you quit your job as part of a settlement.
This means that there is no specific Georgia rule or law that requires you to give up your job when you settle your workers compensation case. In other words, quitting your job as part of settlement is not a part of the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act or the rules published by the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
Why would I have to quit my job if I settle my case?
Even though it is not required under Georgia’s laws, many injured workers do have to quit their jobs when they settle their cases. They have to quit their job as part of settlement because many employers and insurance companies will require a resignation as part of the settlement.
One of the most important things to remember about settlement is that you do not have to settle you workers compensation case. You can always choose to just keep your case open if you want. The insurance company cannot force you to settle.
Employers and insurance companies have the same choice that you do. They do not have to settle with you. They can choose to settle or they can choose to leave your case open.
Since neither you or the insurance company has to settle. that means both of you could choose to place conditions on a settlement. You could choose not to settle unless the insurance company paid you a certain amount of money or agreed to other conditions as part of settlement. In a similar manner, the insurance company can choose not to settle unless you agree to resign your job as part of the settlement.
This is what happens in many workers compensation cases. Your employer, their insurance company, or both require that you resign your job as part of a settlement.
Your employment with a company could end in a few different ways:
- The company terminates your employment for some reason that they claim is your fault. Maybe you clock in late, get in an argument with another employee, or do not perform your job satisfactorily. Most people would call this getting “fired”.
- You get terminated by the company because the company just does not have a job for you anymore. Many people call this getting “laid off”.
- You quit the company. This is known as a “resignation”.
A resignation is basically you voluntarily quitting the company. The main difference between a resignation and the other methods of employment termination is you are choosing to leave with a resignation instead of the company making you leave.
You may wonder how your resignation is voluntarily if the company is forcing you to do it as part of settlement. The reason that it is considered “voluntary” is because you always have the option of choosing not to settle your case and refusing to resign. If you “choose” to move forward with settlement instead, then the resignation is voluntarily..
What is an agreement not to reapply in the future?
Many Georgia workers compensation settlement require you to do something more than just resign from your job. Your employer may also want you to sign an agreement not to reapply. You may wonder how this affects you and how it is different than a simple resignation.
A resignation affects your current status with your employer. When you resign your job, you give up your current employment with your employer. But, resigning your job does not necessarily prevent you from going back to work with that company in the future.
Companies try to address whether you can ever work for a company in the future by having you sign an agreement not to reapply. This way, they hope that you cannot quit your job and then come back immediately after settlement and try to get your job back.
Why do insurance companies often require resignations and agreements not to reapply as part of workers compensation settlements?
Insurance companies do not necessarily give a reason for why they often require resignations and agreement not to reapply. But, insurance companies always always require resignations and agreements not to reapply as part of workers compensation settlements.
One of the likely reasons they do this is that they do not want to settle with you and take the chance of you getting reinjured after settlement. In Georgia, aggravations of preexisting conditions qualify as injuries under the workers compensation law.
If you continued working after settling your case, you could suffer an aggravation injury to the same part of your body that was injured in your original case. This is probably one of the main reasons that insurance companies require resignations and agreements not to reapply.
This is especially likely if your employer still uses the same insurance company to provide their workers compensation insurance. The insurance company will probably not want to take the chance that they could be responsible for a new “aggravation” injury after paying you a lump sum settlement.
Can I settle my case without agreeing to quit my job?
Yes, if the insurance company will agree to it. Georgia law does not require a resignation as part of settlement.
I have had people who I have represented who have not had to resign their jobs to settle their cases. Unfortunately, this does not happen very often.
It is probably less than two percent of Georgia workers compensation cases where a resignation is not required by the employer and insurance company as part of settlement. The most common situation where I have seen it happen is:
- When the workers compensation insurance company changes
- The injured worker performs a very specialized job that the employer really needs
- Where the injured worker’s job is not physically demanding.
If the insurance company does not force me to resign as part of settlement, does that mean that I will continue to have a job after settlement?
Not necessarily. Just because you do not have to resign does not mean that you are guaranteed to have a job for any specific amount of time in the future.
In Georgia, most employees are “at will” employees. That basically means that their employer can fire them for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all (as long as it is not a prohibited reason under the law).
If you are an employee “at will”, then your employer could choose to terminate your employment at any time without really having a particular reason. This means your employer could certainly choose to let you go sometime after settlement even if you were not required to sign a resignation at the time that your case settled.
This is something that is important if you are settling your case, especially if your employer has been providing a light duty job. Your employer may not have as much reason to continue providing you that light duty job after your case is settled and might let you go after settlement, even if you did not have to resign your job as part of settlement.
Can my employer terminate my employment before settlement?
Yes. I see many situations where employers fire or lay off employees who get hurt at work before they settle their case. Sometimes they claim that they are firing the injured worker “for cause”. Other times, they claim that they are laying them off because business is slow. Other times, people “point out” when the employer has a point system.
When people get fired after an injury but before settlement, they often worry that their workers compensation case is over. It is important to understand that your case does not automatically end.
In some situations, you can get wage loss checks from workers compensation after you are fired or laid off. But, there are some complicated rules that determine what happens and whether you will need to go to court to prove your entitlement to these payments.
To find out about more about what can happen when you are fired before you settle, just read this short article about being fired after a workers compensation injury.
What if I want more information about workers compensation settlements?
Settlement is one of the most complicated parts of a workers compensation case. Here are a couple of other articles I wrote that discuss Georgia workers compensation settlements:
Before you move forward with settlement, be sure you understand that it is final and you are not going to be able to back out of it later. Also, I would highly recommend having a consultation with a workers compensation attorney if you do not already have one representing you.