If you’ve seen the dancing hamsters in the Kia car commercials, then you’ve seen professional dancer Leroy Barnes. Before he worked for Kia, Barnes was a backup dancer for performers like Kelly Rowland, Madonna and Chris Brown. Shortly after he donned his hamster costume, however, police arrested Barnes for insurance fraud. While working as a Kia hamster, Barnes allegedly collected over $51,000 in fraudulent disability payments.
Barnes filed for disability in 2010, claiming to have been incapacitated when part of a ceiling fell on him during another production. However, he appeared to have no disability when he danced for the Kia commercial. If convicted, Barnes might pay up to $75,000 in restitution and spend up to six years in prison. His case emphasizes how important it is to tread carefully when returning to work after disability.
Why Would Someone Work While Collecting Disability?
Many people do start working before their disability benefits end, and they do it for legitimate reasons. People on disability might feel frustrated and depressed, and getting back to work could ease these feelings. Most people hope to return to work, so they perform a few activities to see whether they could handle workplace responsibilities.
Some providers stop paying benefits immediately when the employee returns to work while others continue to provide partial benefits. Talking to a disability insurance attorney (click here to visit http://disabilityinsurancelawyers.com/) can help people to understand their policies and their rights. Retaining a lawyer is a great strategy for self-protection, helps workers to maintain their benefits during the transition and makes returning to work as painless as possible. Unfortunately, some workers make the mistake of not talking to their disability payments providers.
Asking Employers for Accommodations
Making accommodations for a disabled employee costs much less than hiring and training a new employee. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, also home of the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), provides these insights into how employee accommodation affects businesses:
- Requires little or no cost. Accommodating a disabled employee costs absolutely nothing in 58 percent of companies. An additional 24 percent incur a one-time cost, and the cost rarely exceeds $500.
- Accommodations are effective. According to JAN, 75 percent of employers report that accommodations they’ve made have proven effective.
- Retaining a disabled employee provides both direct and indirect benefits. The top three direct benefits reported by employers include retaining a valued employee (90 percent), increasing an employee’s productivity (75 percent) and eliminating costs associated with training new employees (61 percent). Indirect benefits included better co-worker interactions (64 percent), better company morale (60 percent) and better company productivity (56 percent).
Working With Disability Insurance Providers
Meeting with an attorney to review a disability policy is a smart first step before returning to work. An attorney can let clients know what their rights are and how their benefits might change while returning to work. If needed, attorneys can negotiate with both insurers and employers on their clients’ behalf. If a person collecting private disability payments from a former employer wants to start work for another employer, retaining a lawyer can help workers start new careers without violating the law. In many cases, the former employer’s insurer may continue paying at least partial benefits if the employee meets certain conditions.
Employees who aren’t working with an attorney should contact their insurers before returning to any sort of work. However, they should also remember that without an attorney, it’s easy to say the wrong thing or to agree to something not in their self-interest. One strategy is to ask the disability insurance provider for a return-to-work trial period. Workers can ask to continue collecting full or partial benefits while they test their ability to work part-time.
Before Going Back to Work
Many experts recommend doing some volunteer work for a certain number of hours per week to test both physical and emotional readiness to return to work. If volunteering proves energizing, then employees can either talk to their former employers about accommodations or start looking for new jobs.
Insurance fraud, of which Leroy Barnes stands accused, is a duplicitous act committed to gain improper payment from an insurance company. People who communicate openly and honestly with both their insurers and employers have nothing to fear about returning to work.