As an employee, you have certain entitlements and benefits provided to you by your company and state and federal laws. For example, your company may provide you with three sick days and two weeks of paid time off every calendar year. These can provide you with much needed time off when you catch a cold or need to recharge your batteries with a vacation, but these provided days often come with some company stipulations. Some employers require you to either take a sick day or burn PTO for any absence from work, regardless of the reason you’re out of office. This means that many injured workers end up having to use their sick days or their hard earned PTO to pay for time away from work for doctor appointments or recovery at home.
Is this even legal, and what should you do if you’re being told that you need to use your sick days and PTO to account for your time away from work that is due to a work injury? We explore your legal options in today’s blog.
Forced To Use Sick Days Or PTO For Work Injury
As you might have guessed, there is no straightforward answer for how sick days and PTO must be used in the wake of a work injury. You absolutely have options, and we’ll cover those in a bit, but in the immediate short-term, you may have to bite the bullet and use your sick days or PTO for time away from work. It depends on your company policies, how flexible your company is, and your personal preferences. That being said, you absolutely have compensation options if you are forced to use these days.
The reason why you may need to use sick days or PTO in the immediate aftermath of a work injury is because the compensation process can be notoriously slow. Obviously an insurance company needs to do their due diligence before making a payment, but at the same time, this can financially impact an employee if there is a gap in income because they are forced to miss work but have yet to be awarded compensation. To keep money coming in during this time, they may turn to their provided sick days or paid time off.
You can absolutely do this, but know that as long as your claim is valid, you will be compensated for your unpaid absence from work. For example, if you were injured on the 9th and approved for workers’ compensation on the 20th, your award payments would be determined from when you first missed work, which would either be the 9th or the 10th, not from the date you were eventually approved. Sick days or PTO are not considered days of work by the workers’ compensation system, so even if you took PTO to bridge the gap between the 9th and the 20th, you’ll be compensated for needing to take these days.
Let’s spell it out with an example. Let’s say you missed five weeks of work due to a work injury, but you took two weeks of PTO to help offset some of the loss in income while you waited for your workers’ compensation payments to kick in. Even though you received a normal paycheck for those two weeks you used PTO while you were injured, your workers’ compensation payments will be backdated five weeks, from the original date of injury. This will be achieved through a retroactive temporary disability claim. You’ll have five weeks of disability benefits, even though your paycheck only reflects three weeks of time away from work.
It’s also worth noting that your employer can’t take retaliatory action against you for filing a claim or using your accrued sick or PTO days. This is against the law, and you have legal options if they try to come after you for unexcused absences from work even though you were out with a valid injury claim.
At the end of the day, if you have questions or concerns about getting compensated for having to use your sick days or PTO for doctor visits or time away from work because of a work injury, reach out to Dean and the experienced legal team at Margolis Law Office.
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