Do I Have to Use My Sick Leave or PTO If I Get Injured at Work?
Sometimes, injured employees use their paid time off (PTO) hours when they miss work due to job-related injuries or illnesses. For some, using PTO is necessary to avoid financial strain while waiting for benefits to start. However, using sick leave and personal days might not benefit you if you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. If you get hurt at work and need time off to recover, you should understand the advantages and potential drawbacks of using PTO for wage replacement.
Should I Use My PTO Before My Workers’ Comp Coverage Begins?
It depends. When you file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, it could take weeks to receive your first payment. Meanwhile, taking paid time off can provide the money you need to cover medical costs and other expenses you would be unable to afford otherwise.
In some cases, the workers’ comp insurance company might deny or undervalue your claim. That can further delay the process, preventing you from collecting the lost wage and medical benefits you need before your bills come due. You can file an appeal, but that also takes time.
If you’re out of work for an extended period with no way of returning to work or earning the same income you earned before the workplace accident, PTO could be your best option. With PTO, you can cover your necessary expenses while waiting for the insurance carrier to review your appeal.
Can I Take PTO While Receiving Benefits?
Yes. Workers’ compensation doesn’t cover all lost income when you’re out of work. That means there’s an inevitable gap in coverage, which can leave you without the money you need to pay for essentials while you’re out of work.
Your PTO can supplement the gap between your benefit payments and any remaining expenses the benefits won’t cover. Taking personal days, sick leave, and other paid time away from your job can help you maintain your standard of living and avoid financial hardships that could lead to unmanageable debt.
Don’t Let PTO Jeopardize Your Claim
Remember that if you go on a trip, participate in strenuous activities, or ignore your doctor’s recommended treatment plan while taking PTO, it could negatively affect your workers’ comp claim. The insurance adjuster could find out and use your activities as evidence that you aren’t really hurt or that your injury isn’t as serious as you initially claimed. Depending on what they find, they could even reject your claim entirely, preventing you from recouping the compensation necessary to cover your losses.
Can My Boss Force Me to Take Sick Days?
No. Your employer cannot force you to use your sick days or PTO while you are out of work with an injury that qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits. However, an employer could require you to use your sick days or PTO for non-work-related injuries or illnesses, as this is standard employment practice.
Why You Should File a Workers’ Compensation Claim Even If You Have PTO
You might think filing a workers’ compensation claim isn’t necessary if you have saved up a lot of sick days, personal days, or medical leave. However, PTO isn’t something you should take for granted. Save your hard-earned PTO and recover the benefit payments you deserve from your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance instead.
With a valid workers’ comp claim, you could receive:
- Medical care benefits to cover any medical, surgical, dental, or other health services necessary to treat a medical condition you suffer on the job.
- Lost wage benefits to cover a percentage of the income you lose out on due to a job-related injury or illness that forces you to miss work or accept a lower-paying position.
What Happens to My PTO If I Use It While Collecting Workers’ Compensation?
If you use sick time or other PTO before your workers’ compensation benefits kick in, the insurance company will likely reimburse you for the equivalent value of the PTO you used. The reimbursement will likely go to your employer, who should take the money and use it to restore some or all of your PTO.
Get Help from a Lawyer to Pursue the Benefits You Deserve
You do not have to use your PTO after a workplace accident when you have workers’ compensation coverage. The benefits you receive should pay for your expenses so you can heal enough to return to work. If your employer tries to force you to use your PTO or the insurance carrier denies your benefits claim, seek legal assistance immediately. Contact Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada, P.C. at 516-496-0400 for your free consultation today.