Can an employer make an injured worker use up vacation pay or sick leave while they are off work due to an injury?
No, the employer cannot require an injured worker to use vacation pay or sick pay in lieu of receiving worker’s compensation. However, because worker’s compensation pay in Iowa and other states is generally only a percentage of normal wages, it can at times be arranged to receive both worker’s compensation and sick/vacation pay at the same time. I occasionally have clients or prospective clients who come to consult and were told by the employer that they were going to use up their vacation/sick pay before commencing worker’s compensation benefits, or the employer just uses it without fully informing the injured worker. If and when you get hurt on the job, it would be wise to document the amount of vacation/sick pay you have accumulated in the event this problem arises.
One of the primary questions I get from callers is whether or not they are getting a fair offer to settle their claim. They were injured at work, they got the medical care that was reasonable and necessary, and the treating physician has given an impairment rating opinion. They are of the understanding from talking to the insurance company that the impairment rating dictates what the claim is worth. In rare situations that advice could be true, but in almost all cases it is not. It depends on what type of injury the worker has sustained as well as numerous other factors. Those factors would include the worker’s age, education, work history, and permanent physical restrictions as a result of the injury. The impairment rating itself is only one small factor and is usually significantly less than the industrial disability loss. Industrial disability means loss of earning capacity in the future. Injured workers involved in heavy construction or other high physical demand employments are much more impaired to continue in that occupation than somebody who works at a desk or otherwise sedentary type employment. The exact same injury to the same part of the body, in the same location, and with exactly the same permanent restrictions, can cause a significantly different loss of earning capacity to two different people.
If the insurance company tells you that they will pay the percentage of body impairment in order to close your file, and that’s all it’s worth, do the right thing and consult an attorney practicing in worker’s compensation. Not only does determining industrial disability require an examination of multiple factors but closing your file with a lump sum settlement will also cut off future entitlement to medical care that may be required. This is a big problem for people that do not always have health insurance, and equally big problem for people who are on Medicare, or will soon be entitled to Medicare. Medicare is funded by the taxpayers. Medicare goes to great lengths not to pay for medical care for physical injuries or symptoms that should have been paid by the worker’s compensation insurance company.
Injured workers with questions concerning these factors and how the factors apply to a given case should consult with an attorney who is skilled in Iowa worker’s compensation.
If you or someone you know has been injured at work and you would like to discuss your case with an attorney, please contact Walt Thomas at Telpner Peterson Law Firm, LLP today at 712-309-3738.