In our last blog post about workers’ compensation law in Missouri, we looked at how workers’ compensation claims can become disability discrimination lawsuits. But what happens if you win your disability discrimination case and receive a settlement or verdict? Will the award reduce your workers’ compensation benefits?
The short answer is no.
The Intersection Between Missouri’s Workers’ Compensation Law and Federal Workplace Discrimination Law
Generally, if you get hurt at work in Missouri, you are entitled to workers’ compensation. However, if the injury that you suffered was severe enough, you can become “disabled” under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
If you have a disability under the ADA but can still perform the essential functions of your job, with or without reasonable accommodations, the ADA protects you from disability discrimination. This prevents your employer from treating you unfairly or terminating you because of your disability. If they do discriminate against you, the ADA allows you to file a discrimination lawsuit against your employer.
You can file this discrimination claim, even if you are receiving workers’ compensation for the injury that started the whole situation. This is an exception to the rule that the workers’ compensation system is your exclusive remedy for your workplace injury.
Discrimination Award Cannot Offset Workers’ Compensation Benefits
If you file a discrimination claim against your employer and the case either goes to trial and you win, or the case settles out of court and you receive a settlement award, the amount that you receive cannot be used to justify a reduction in your workers’ compensation benefits.
Those benefits are the costs of your medical treatment and compensation for the wages that you have lost due to your workplace injury. In Missouri, that compensation for your lost wages, also known as your disability benefits, generally provides you with two-thirds of your pre-injury wage, up to 105 percent of the state’s average weekly wage. These payments are made weekly and, for permanent disabilities, continue indefinitely.
These payments cannot be reduced because you succeed in a disability discrimination lawsuit against your employer.
This is different from the so-called SSDI offset, which happens when you receive disability benefits through both workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). In that case, both sources of benefits are meant to compensate you for your disabilities from your workplace injury, so receiving both would give you a windfall. In this case, though, your workers’ compensation benefits are for your workplace injury, while your disability discrimination award is for the suffering you went through because of your employer’s discriminatory conduct. These are distinct losses that you have suffered, so the benefits you receive for each are separate and cannot be used to reduce the other.
Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph
The personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers at the Smith Law Office help victims in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Springfield, and the rest of western Missouri recover the compensation they need and deserve. Contact them online or call them at (816) 875-9373 for legal help.