Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum, P.C. | August 24, 2022 | Workplace Accidents
Most employees who suffer workplace accidents can seek workers’ compensation benefits but cannot take their claim to court. If a third party (someone outside the company) caused the accident, the worker is free to sue the third party in court for personal injury (a slip and fall accident, for example).
Nevertheless, lawsuits take time to resolve. Can an injured worker receive unemployment benefits while their lawsuit is still pending? Like many other legal questions, the short answer is “It depends.”
Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits in New York
The State of New York imposes several requirements on workers seeking unemployment benefits. You must:
- Be unemployed;
- Have worked enough time in New York during the last 12 months to establish your claim;
- Have lost your job through no fault of your own;
- Be ready, willing, and able to work; and
- Be actively seeking work.
You must meet all of these conditions to qualify for unemployment benefits.
Are You Unemployed?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a federal statute, requires your employer to grant you up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave every year if you meet certain conditions, including disability.
When the statute applies, your employer cannot fire you for your disability if you regain the ability to work within 12 weeks. If that is the arrangement between you and your employer, you are not unemployed. Consequently, under these conditions, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits.
Have You Worked Enough Time in New York to Qualify for Unemployment Benefits?
Assuming you are otherwise eligible for unemployment benefits, your ultimate eligibility depends on whether you worked in New York during your base period. To calculate your base period, set the end point at three months before the date that you applied for unemployment benefits. The beginning point is exactly 12 months before the endpoint.
How much money (if any) you receive in unemployment benefits depends on how many hours you worked during your base period. The New York state government determines what you will receive, and that amount frequently changes.
Did You Lose Your Job Through No Fault of Your Own?
If you lost your job because of a workplace accident that was not your fault, you qualify under that particular requirement of unemployment benefits. But what if the question of fault is the issue for which litigation is pending?
In this case, New York will determine whether you were responsible for the accident (and your resulting loss of employment). If it determines that the accident was your fault, you will probably not be eligible for unemployment benefits.
If, on the other hand, your employer fired you for misconduct, or if you quit your job voluntarily, you will not be eligible for unemployment benefits.
Are You Ready, Willing, and Able To Work?
New York will probably deny your unemployment claim if your workplace injury prevents you from working. There is a loophole, however. If you could work on the basis of a “reasonable accommodation” to your disability that your employer could provide, New York might consider you able to work. You would then be eligible for unemployment benefits if you met all of the other requirements.
Are You Actively Seeking Work?
The “actively seeking work” requirement might be irrelevant if your injuries prevent you from working. If you can work, however, you still cannot receive unemployment benefits unless you are looking for work.
Are You Ready and Willing To Work?
To qualify for unemployment benefits, you must be ready to begin work immediately.
You Probably Need a Lawyer
The New York unemployment, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and disability insurance systems are interdependent and can interact in complex ways. If you were injured in a workplace accident and plan to apply for unemployment benefits, seeking the advice of a lawyer is probably a good idea.