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Injured worker? Proceed with unemployment case

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in Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources

An employee who is injured at work is generally eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. But if you know the employee has engaged in misconduct that would make him or her ineligible for unemployment compensation, you can discharge the employee anyway and avoid paying both kinds of benefits.

Here’s why. A recent Florida appeals court case says being fired for misconduct can terminate eligibility not just for unemployment compensation benefits but for workers’ comp benefits too. But you’ll have to prove to both the unemployment compensation system and the workers’ compensation system that the employee’s guilty. You can’t just use the unemployment compensation decision as proof.

Recent case: Debi Thorkelson hurt her back at work and was fired shortly thereafter for misconduct because she had been insubordinate on several occasions. After winning the unemployment compensation case, her former employer asked the judge of compensation claims to dismiss her case. He did, based on the same evidence as the unemployment compensation system used to deny her claim.

She appealed. But the Court of Appeals of Florida upheld the workers’ compensation decision cutting her benefits. The court said both laws specify that employees fired for misconduct don’t get benefits. (Thorkelson v. NY Pizza & Pasta, No. 1D06-2083, Court of Appeals of Florida, 2007)  

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