If I’m receiving workers’ comp benefits in Georgia, can I still work?

In 2004, Garry McBee injured his right shoulder on the job. At the time, he was working for Blue Ribbon Rentals, Inc. in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. As a result of his injury, he received temporary total disability benefits from October 2004 to March 2006.

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That seems pretty straightforward, right? It is, until you get to the part of the story where McBee was working for his wife’s business during those eighteen months. Then it becomes an issue that conflicts with the State of Ohio: According to their workers compensation law, claimants are prohibited from receiving temporary total disability benefits while working. During this time, McBee was not compensated for his time at McBee Auto Sales, but court records do show that he was listed as the company’s general manager and handled the company’s finances.

The Industrial Commission of Ohio found that temporary total disability benefits should not have been paid to McBee and that he had committed fraud by submitting disability paperwork certifying that he was not working. McBee’s defense was that he was unaware that unpaid activity was work. He appealed the decision.

An appellate court upheld the decision regarding the payment of disability benefits, but asserted that McBee did not, in fact, commit fraud. The Ohio Supreme Court agreed this in a unanimous decision; the court found that, while his actions generated income for his family, Garry McBee didn’t know that his time at McBee Auto Sales was defined as work under Ohio law.

“Our examination of the evidence reveals nothing from which we can infer that McBee recognized that the activities in question could be construed as work,” the ruling reads. “If McBee was asked at (a) hearing whether he knew that work included some unpaid activities, the commission’s order does not reflect it.

“Where a claimant receives wages or other direct compensation for activities
performed, it is easy to infer that the claimant has knowledge that his activities constitute work. If the claimant conceals his receipt of wages, it is again easy to infer the requisite intent. But the inference to knowledge and intent is not so easy when the claimant receives no wages or direct compensation for activities performed. Where it is determined on a case-by-case basis that the claimant has engaged in activities that generate income to a business he does not own, and on that basis, work is the conclusion, the inference to knowledge and intent is not so easy.”

McBee will likely have to pay back those benefits, as he was not entitled to them.  According to this decision, they are considered overpayment.

Georgia, like Ohio and other states with their own workers’ compensation statutes, will not look favorably on an injured workers who receives temporary total disability benefits and engages in work at the same time.  But what constitutes “work”?  It can vary by the circumstances.

Don’t make the mistakes that Garry McBee made and try to figure out the system on your own. Contact our firm; we are knowledgeable in Georgia Workers Compensation laws and can advise you as to your rights and responsibilities as an injured worker in Georgia.

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