Last week we met Floyd, who was denied getting temporary total compensation after he “voluntary abandoned” the labor market. We learned from Floyd’s story that if you’re an injured worker, you don’t necessarily have to obtain new employment to remain eligible for temporary total, but you also must not exclude the possibility of employment by abandoning the job market.
So are there exceptions to this?
The purpose of temporary total benefits is to provide compensation to an injured worker who is temporarily unable to return to the duties of his or her former position of employment as a result of a workplace injury. The court requires “a causal connection between the inability to work and the industrial injury.” Further, under the abandonment doctrine, “an injured worker who voluntarily leaves a position of employment is generally barred from receiving temporary total disability compensation.”
Now let’s say you quit your job. If your decision to quit has nothing to do with your injury, then the cause of your lost earnings is not your work-related injury and you won’t be entitled to temporary total.
In another case that we had recently, the client was off work due to a work-related back injury. Her treating physician certified that she could return to her former job without any restrictions. But she did not return and not because of her injury. She also did not return to work anywhere else. She was eventually terminated by her employer for absenteeism. The commission determined that her discharge could be deemed a voluntary abandonment because she left the workforce of her own choosing.
When she later had surgery for her condition, it was paid for by workers’ compensation. She then applied for temporary total disability compensation. She was denied her benefits because she had abandoned the workforce. She had never returned to work nor shown an interest in returning to work; therefore, she had no lost wages to be replaced.