Tag Archives: short term disability

No, you don’t need to burn your PTO to get workers’ compensation benefits.

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Employees do not need to exhaust paid time off (PTO) to receive workers’ compensation benefits in Nebraska. Employers in Nebraska must carry workers’ compensation insurance. But in Nebraska, employers aren’t required to pay PTO. Workers compensation pays out benefits whether you have paid leave or whether you have health insurance.

If you injure yourself at work and someone in management or HR tells you that you need to exhaust your paid leave before you collect workers’ compensation benefits, one of three things might be happening.

1. Someone at your company is misinformed about workers’ compensation.

2. Your employer is misleading you about how workers’ compensation works.

3. Maybe you misunderstood what you were told.

So why do some people think you need to exhaust paid leave before you receive workers’ compensation?

Short-term disability and exhaustion of leave

Many short-term disability policies require that employees exhaust paid leave before claiming short-term disability. My wife was required to burn her paid time off in order claim short-term disability during her maternity leave. White collar employers tend to have more short-term disability claims than workers compensation claims. (They tend to shift work injuries on to short and long-term disability, but that’s another story.) So a white collar HR department that lacks knowledge of workers compensation may, wrongly, assume that injured workers need to exhaust paid leave before receiving workers’ compensation.

The stigma of workers’ compensation

Employers who believe that employees need to burn paid time off before workers’ compensation benefits, may also believe this is necessary because they believe it should be necessary. Burning your paid time off before receiving workers’ compensation would be the same as paying a deductible before health insurance pays. Employers who think PTO should serve as a workers’ compensation deductible may believe that workers’ compensation and workers’ compensation claimants are illegitimate. Forcing employees to burn PTO before receiving workers’ compensation is one way to “hold employees accountable.”

Paying a quasi-deductible to receive workers’ compensation benefits is the cornerstone of a portable benefits scheme dreamed up by Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber. (Portable benefits are touted as a replacement for workers’ compensation —- particularly for gig economy workers. Bad portable plans shift the cost of work injuries onto injured workers.)

Misinformed or mislead: A distinction without a difference

I know some high-injury employers actively misinform employees about workers’ compensation. These employers may tell injured workers they need to use paid time off before they can collect workers’ compensation to discourage injured employees from taking time away from work. Employees may work through pain to avoid missing work and losing out on paid family leave and or paid vacation time.

Employee misunderstanding

Nebraska law requires a one-week delay period before an injured worker who is off work can collect temporary disability. If disability lasts longer than six weeks, the employer must pay that first week. . Some employees may take this statement to mean that they need to exhaust their paid leave or PTO to receive workers’ compensation. Many employees don’t want to take the chance of missing out on a week of pay Bluntly many employees may need to draw paid leave or PTO while they are waiting for workers’ compensation benefits to start.

Can you collect workers’ compensation for times you took PTO in Nebraska? Yes you can.

The Nebraska Court of Appeals ruled in Godsey v. Casey’s General Stores that an employee can collect temporary total disability for periods when they took PTO. The court reasoned that since paid leave was a benefit ready earned by the injured worker that an injured worker could collect workers compensation and PTO.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett, Moore & Rehm, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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Five reasons why office workers don’t file workers’ comp. for hand and wrist injuries

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Office work isn’t thought of as physically difficult, but office workers can be vulnerable to hand and wrist  injuries from overuse at work. While these injuries usually aren’t permanently and substantially disabling, these injuries can lead employees to lose wages and rack up thousands of dollars in medical bills.

Yet many clerical workers are reluctant to bring workers’ compensation claims. I think there are at least five reasons why office workers don’t claim workers’ compensation for hand injuries and wrist injuries.

Hand injuries aren’t thought of as serious injuries – According to some Wasington DC think tank, carpal tunnel syndrome doesn’t count as a serious work injury. This conclusion reflects common attitudes that carpal tunnel isn’t a serious injury. If you don’t think an injury is serious, then you won’t seek treatment for the injury or seek to put it under workers’ compensation.

Workers don’t understand causation standards – In Nebraska, occupational factors merely need to contribute to the development of an injury or medical condition for it to be considered by workers’ compensation. Work duties can also aggravate an old injury. There is a misconception that an injury or condition has to be new or mostly caused by work to covered by workers’ compensation.

Workers don’t understand that repetitive use injuries are work injuries – When many people think of an injury they think of a fall or collision that happens at a distinct point in time. But in Nebraska injuries that develop over a period of time can be covered by workers’ compensation.

The stigma of filing for workers’ compensation claims – I’ve written about a lot over concerns about retaliation for bringing claims and the perception that workers’ compensation claims are fraudulent. Colorado attorney Mack Babcock wrote a thoughtful post about how the stigma of filing a workers’ compensation claim discourages employees from claiming workers’ compensation. Employees feel guilty about making claims and are often criticized by co-workers for making claims as well. Employees may customarily pay the costs of a work injury through a short-term disability policy and private health insurance, so an employee who claims workers’ compensation may be rocking the boat.

The first four factors aren’t exclusive to office workers. But I think this next factor explains why many clerical employees don’t bring claims for hand injuries due to overuse.

Cost of work injuries shifted onto private disability and health insurance – I drive past major claims processing centers for Allstate and State Farm when I drive up 84th Street on the way to Omaha. My experience is that the clerical workers who develop hand injuries doing data entry jobs in large companies will often claim short-term disability for time lost after surgery and put medical costs on private health insurance instead of claiming workers’ compensation. I think the four other factors I discussed above lead employees to use short-term disability and health insurance instead of workers’ compensation.

In my next post, I will  discuss the why and how of employees losing money by not claiming injuries as workers’ compensation injuries and what they can do if they have paid the costs of their work injury through health insurance and disability insurance.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett, Moore & Rehm, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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