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MLIVE ASK THE ATTORNEY COLUMN

Q. I injured my back at work and am not able to stand up enough to do my job. My employer says he will not pay me workers’ compensation benefits, and that I should just quit and find a sit down job somewhere? Is this legal?

A. Michigan’s workers’ compensation law was designed to provide injured workers with prompt, certain and sustaining benefits to take care of an injured worker who lost wages after an injury. For a 100 years, if a Michigan injured worker could not do his or her job following an injury, a worker was entitled to receive weekly wage loss benefits; an employer’ insurance company could avoid paying if the employer offered the worker a light duty job within the worker’s capacity. Under the 2011 amendments to the act passed by Governor Snyder and the Republican legislature in Lansing, many insurance companies now just hire vocational experts to testify that because a job exists somewhere ‘in the universe’ you can do, you have a ‘wage earning capacity’ and are therefore entitled to no workers’ compensation. Under the new law, if you look for work and can’t find any, you are still supposed to get paid your full benefits, but many of the Republican magistrates over the past 8 years have denied or reduced benefits by criticizing an injured worker’s job search, even where the worker has applied for hundreds of jobs. I would be happy to talk with you about how to deal with your own specific situation to develop a plan to secure benefits. You can also help yourself by remembering to vote on November 6th for leaders in Lansing who are committed to protecting injured workers.

–Attorney Robert J. MacDonald (October 2018)