The Appellate Division recently addressed this issue in the matter of Wilson v. Board of Review (Docket No. A-4874-12T4, November 6, 2014). In this case, Mr. Wilson suffered significant spine injuries when he fell from a ladder. He underwent two spine surgeries and was out of work receiving workers’ compensation benefits from January 10, 2011 to January 26, 2013. When his doctor released him to return to work, it was with permanent restrictions and his employer was unable to accommodate that restriction. The court ruled that under these circumstances, he was not eligible for unemployment.
The Court’s decision turned on two important factors. First, in order to be eligible for unemployment benefits an individual must have sufficient earnings or wages during his “base year”, which is the first four of the last five complete quarters immediately preceding an individual’s benefits year. A base year is calculated based upon the date of filing the claim for unemployment benefits. In this case, Mr. Wilson had not worked within the last year and therefore he was unable to establish eligibility.
Second, an alternate base year can be used to establish eligibility in the case of a worker who was injured at work. In the case of a work related injury, the “base year” is calculated by using the first four of the most recent five completed calendar quarters preceding the date his disability began. The catch is that the alternate base year cannot be used if the individual is no longer able to perform the duties of his last position AND the individual did not receive workers’ compensation benefits in excess of two years. Mr. Wilson was both unable to perform his job duties and had received workers’ compensation temporary disability benefits for just over two years when he applied for unemployment.
Unemployment benefits are often the only source of income available to injured workers who lose their job due to a work related injury. To navigate the Department of Labor’s resources available to injured workers’ you may want to seek legal counsel. If you are injured at work and need answers to questions like this, please call our experienced attorneys for your free, confidential consultation today.