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Workers’ Compensation can provide valuable benefits if you are a paraprofessional, school nurse or occupational or physical therapist and have a work-related injury or occupational illness.
If you are a full-time or part-time employee holding these jobs and you are injured or made sick on the job, you should file for Workers’ Compensation. Workers’ Comp is a form of insurance already paid for by the Department of Education that entitles you to full medical coverage and a portion of any lost salary due to job-related injuries and occupational illnesses.
The basic benefits
Workers’ Comp benefits include:
- all medical expenses;
- up to two-thirds of your weekly wages per week for total disability if you are out of work for more than seven days (not necessarily consecutive); and
- additional money if you have permanent damage to a limb, or facial scars, or loss of hearing or eyesight.
If you use the days in your Cumulative Absence Reserve (sick bank) due to the injury, you may be able to get them restored when you file for Workers’ Comp.
It doesn’t matter who is at fault for the injury/illness as long as you were on school property or were performing your assigned work duties. The only exceptions are when the injury is due solely to intoxication from alcohol or a controlled substance or you willfully injured yourself or were hurt while trying to injure someone else.
The DOE requires accidents to be reported within 24 hours. However, under state Workers’ Comp law you have 30 days to notify your employer of a work-related accident or injury, and the statutes of limitations to file a claim is two years from the date of the accident or when an occupational illness is diagnosed.
It’s important to file for Workers’ Comp as soon as you realize the injury or illness is work-related. If your injury recurs and you didn’t file a claim and establish a carrier case number, you may have difficulty receiving medical benefits.
If the DOE or the school does not accept your report because it is past the initial 24 hours, call the UFT Workers’ Compensation Unit at 1-212-510-6460.
You can also file a Workers’ Comp claim for an occupational illness, which is a medical condition that develops over time and is caused by the nature of the work you perform.
Filing a claim
When stricken on the job, immediately report the injury, accident or illness to your supervisor, fill out a DOE Comprehensive Accident/Injury Report and, in the case of an assault or other safety incident, a DOE occurrence report through the Online Occurrence Reporting System as well as a UFT incident report.
Your employer must notify Workers’ Comp within 10 days of the injury by submitting a Workers’ Comp C–2 form electronically via the school’s payroll portal.
Even if you do not lose any days from work, you should still tell your chapter leader and contact the UFT’s Workers’ Compensation Unit. A safety and health associate will guide you through the process.
To report and start a Workers’ Comp claim, fill out a C–3 form and submit it to the compensation board. Filling out a DOE injury or incident report does not constitute filing a claim.
It is recommended that you have legal or medical representation to assist you when filing a claim.
The UFT has an arrangement with a large, reputable Workers’ Comp legal firm whose lawyers can advise you and help you fill out the C–3 form. You only pay a lawyer’s fee if you win and it will be paid out of your award.
See a Workers’ Comp-authorized MD
You’re also required to see a Workers’ Comp-authorized occupational doctor as soon as possible or, if it’s an emergency, go to a hospital emergency room. Tell the doctor your injury is work-related. Your health insurance will not pay for work-related injuries.
The physician is required to fill out and submit the Workers’ Comp C–4 form. It’s important to see an authorized provider because these doctors know the system. They can complete and submit the C–4 form and will testify on your behalf if necessary. Ask your doctor to mail a copy of the completed C–4 form to you.
Don’t throw out any paperwork or receipts that relate to your case. Keep everything.
Consult the UFT or your Workers’ Comp attorney before applying for other benefits such as disability or unemployment insurance.
Leaves of absence
An employee who is disabled due to an injury that can be compensated under the Workers’ Compensation Law is entitled to a cumulative leave of absence, while actually disabled, for one year — or, if disabled due to an assault on the job, for two years unless you are found to be permanently disabled from performing the duties of the job.
You may not be allowed to return to work after your leave has expired if upon your return you are unable to perform your duties. You may be sent to the DOE Medical Bureau for an examination of your medical documentation and if there are limitations, you will be found unfit to return.
Once your employer discharges you, you may apply within one year of recovery for reinstatement to your former job or a similar job for which you are qualified. If you are found fit to perform the duties of your former position but no appropriate vacancy exists, or if the workload does not warrant filling such a vacancy, your name will be placed on a preferred list.
It is a DOE policy to inform you that if you have not reported to duty in more than a year due to a disability resulting from an occupational injury as defined in the state’s civil service law, you will be terminated from your position, effective 35 days from the date of the letter.
You can apply to the DOE for reinstatement if you are medically fit. You must apply before the effective date of the termination, and you must submit to a medical exam to determine your fitness to perform the job duties.