Every job comes with inherent risks for employees. Whether it’s the risk of cutting oneself as a nurse, falling on a construction job, or straining back muscles from lifting heavy items, your work can take its toll on your body.
The workers’ compensation system was developed to address these risks and to provide workers with coverage for their medical bills and lost wages in the event a workplace related injury occurs. In order for the workers’ compensation process to function correctly, it must be limited to covering accidents that occur on the job.
This means that workers cannot get treatment for their unrelated health issues through the workers’ compensation system. It also means that when employees engage in willful or intentionally risky conduct while on the job, employers may also determine that they are not entitled to workers’ compensation coverage.
What Constitutes Willful Misconduct in Cherry Hill?
Workers’ compensation is a fundamental social service for many employees and cannot easily be taken away. Without workers’ compensation coverage, employees may struggle to pay medical bills or put food on the table while out of work.
In order to make clear the type of misconduct that can disqualify workers from workers’ compensation benefits, New Jersey’s Unemployment Compensation Law sets forth three different levels of misconduct and the punishment that applies to each.
At the lowest level is simple misconduct. Even simple misconduct requires showing that an employee acted with some degree of willfulness, intention, or with deliberation. To clarify, where an employee acts neglectfully or fails to follow basic security procedures but was not intentionally trying to do so – this does not constitute simple misconduct. New Jersey’s laws do not punish employees for making mistakes, even if they are significant ones.
Workers who engage in simple misconduct are disqualified from receiving workers’ compensation benefits for the eight weeks after they are determined to have engaged in misconduct. After that time, they may again be eligible for benefits.
At the next level is severe misconduct. As one can imagine, courts have at times had difficulty determining what is severe misconduct and what is simple misconduct. To help alleviate this confusion, New Jersey’s Unemployment Compensation law provides examples of severe misconduct that includes repeated violations of rules and policies, physical assaults or altercations, use of intoxicants or drugs at work, and falsification of records.
Workers found to have engaged in severe misconduct are prohibited from receiving workers’ compensation benefits from the time they have been found guilty of the misconduct until they have been reemployed for four weeks and have earned at least six times their unemployment benefit rate.
Gross Misconduct in New Jersey
The most severe type of misconduct in New Jersey is gross misconduct. Gross misconduct is conduct punishable as a criminal offense under New Jersey law. Thus, this is reserved for only the most egregious of behaviors by an employee. Only in the most extreme circumstances will an employee be found to have engaged in gross misconduct. In most situations, such conduct will be sufficient for the employee to lose his or her job.
Employees who commit gross misconduct receive severe restrictions on their ability to get workers’ compensation. They are prohibited from ever receiving workers’ compensation benefits while at the employer where the gross misconduct occurred. If they leave or are fired, they can only receive workers’ compensation at their new position once they have been working for at least eight weeks and have earned at least ten times their weekly unemployment benefit rate.
Whether simple, severe, or gross misconduct, employers have the burden of showing that an employee is not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. They must challenge the award of these benefits on an individual basis to make sure that they are not awarded. This makes it important for both employees and employers to have adequate representation during this challenge process.
New Jersey Attorneys Helping You Deal with Employee Misconduct
Employers pay a great deal to ensure that their employees have workers’ compensation coverage to keep them healthy and supported in the event of a workplace injury. When employees take unfair advantage of this benefit through their willful misconduct, it hurts employers and the system.
If you have been injured at work and feel that you have been wrongly accused by your employer of engaging in willful misconduct that could disqualify you from receiving workers’ compensation, it is important to speak with a qualified workers’ compensation lawyer to understand how the system works. At Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo, our attorneys have successful handled thousands of workers’ compensations claims and have the knowledge and experience to help you receive the compensation you rightfully deserve.
We will take the time to listen to your situation and help you determine if you have a legitimate claim. Our law firm has been recognized as one of the leading law firms in the state by Best Lawyers (U.S. News and World Report “Best Law Firm” recipient since 2010). Frank Petro, who heads the firm’s Workers’ Compensation Department, has received numerous accolades including being named to the New Jersey Super Lawyers list every year since 2004, being recognized as a “Best Lawyer” since 1995, and having an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, the world’s leading attorney referral service, for the past 19 years.
In addition to our office in Cherry Hill, we have three other convenient New Jersey office locations including Northfield, Hamilton, and Cape May Court House. Each of our offices are open from 8:30 AM until 5:30 PM from Monday through Friday, and, when necessary, we can arrange for evening or weekend appointments. Our attorneys offer free consultations to discuss your case and will help you determine if you have a valid claim. If you do have a legitimate claim, our workers’ compensation attorneys will fight hard on your behalf and you will only receive payment once they successfully win your case for you.
For more information on work injuries that are being denied because of alleged willful misconduct issues or for any other workers’ compensation claims, contact us online or at (888) 675-7607.