United Continental Holdings (commonly known as UAL) is offering its flight attendants a second voluntary separation program with additional benefits to encourage voluntary separation from the company. As a term of the separation agreement, the flight attendant must waive his or her right to pursue legal claims and release United from liability related to his or her employment with and/or separation from United. Flight attendants are understandably concerned that this may affect their right to file a workers’ compensation claim and collect benefits for work related injuries.
This agreement does carve out some exceptions, including the right of the flight attendant to assert his or her rights under workers’ compensation. Accepting the VSP 2 does not forfeit your workers’ compensation claim! Remember that you have three years from the date of the accident or two years from the last payment of compensation to file any Illinois workers’ compensation claim. You may file the workers’ compensation claim after accepting the VSP 2. However, any flight attendants with currently open workers’ compensation claims should note that accepting this voluntary separation package could still affect his or her claim. For example, electing to accept the voluntary separation could affect the injured workers’ right to weekly temporary total disability benefits in some situations. Further, in some cases, accepting the voluntary separation may adversely affect the amount of permanency benefits (money owed for settlement for disability caused by the injury) which the flight attendant is entitled to receive at the conclusion of medical care or upon reaching maximum medical improvement. We highly recommend that any flight attendants with currently open workers’ compensation claims consult their workers’ compensation attorney before signing this agreement to ensure a complete understanding of the potential ramifications on their workers’ compensation claim, as well as to maximize the value of the workers’ compensation claim.
Further, by signing this agreement, the flight attendant is certifying that he or she had “no unreported on-the-job injuries”. After signing the VSP 2 agreement, the flight attendant who suffered unreported injuries or Occupational disease exposures in the past may jeopardize his or her right to obtain workers’ compensation benefits in the future. Accordingly, if a flight attendant has an un-filed workers’ compensation claim, it will typically be in his or her best interest to report the injury and file the claim with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (not just Sedgwick) prior to signing the voluntary separation agreement to protect his or her right to workers’ compensation benefits. However, every case is different and this blog is not intended to provide legal advice, simply some guidance and food for thought.