by Christopher N. Kleps, Esq.

Workers’ compensation and unemployment claims can go hand in hand. Having worked as an adjudicator in the unemployment division of the Georgia Department of Labor for five years, I wanted to provide an insiders’ view of some of the situations where workers’ compensation and unemployment may intersect.

One of the most common situations in which an employer may defend against exposure in the unemployment context during a workers’ compensation claim is when an employee is discharged for failing to comply with reporting absences or failing to return to work as directed.

In the case of an employee who fails to comply with his return to work or who fails to report absences as required, the most important step is communication. Employers often have policies in place governing absences from work. However, when the employee is out of work for an alleged work-related injury, he may not remember whether he is to report his absence as usual, or in a different manner from a sick day. Secondly, many employees, whether intentionally or not, are confused as to whom they need to speak to about returning to work. Employees may communicate with their supervisors, who they are used to speaking with, instead of working through human resources, the workers’ compensation department, or the adjuster to coordinate their return to work. It is critical to ensure employees are aware of who they need to speak with about absences and return to work.

An employee who voluntarily resigns is not entitled to unemployment benefits. This includes a situation where an employee resigns at the same time as settlement of the workers’ compensation claim. However, if an employee tries to claim benefits after a voluntary resignation it is important that the employer properly present the resignation to the Department of Labor during the adjudication process and has someone present to represent the employer at all stages of the process. Otherwise, the employer is relying on the honesty of the employee or the inquisitiveness of the adjudicator to deny benefits, neither of which would be wise to depend on.