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Benefits to be paid during time off? Oklahoma

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  • Benefits to be paid during time off? Oklahoma

    I'm an employer in Oklahoma. We have never had more than 13 employees. One of my employees was injured some time ago. We don't dispute the injury and his health care and lost time wages and related care expenses are being paid for by our WC carrier. The employee is still under doctor's care and having physical therapy.

    Do we have any obligation to pay for his regular health insurance or provide any other benefits past the day he could not return to work that would have accrued if he had continued to work a regular schedule? The WC claims adjuster told us at the start these benefits are not covered by them and the issue was between us and the employee. At what point is he no longer our employee? We have been paying for his regular health insurance and he has inquired about vacation pay accruing since he has been on workmans comp. We do not have a written policy that covers this nor have we every had the situation before.
    Last edited by double edge; 11-24-2007, 09:01 PM.

  • #2
    Since you have never had 20 or more employees you are not subject to the Federal COBRA law.

    Since the OK state law is somewhat confusing, let's determine if it's even going to apply. How long has it been since he was able to work? And how long had he been working for you before he was injured?
    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

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    • #3
      He worked ten years before the injury. He's been off eleven months.
      Last edited by double edge; 11-25-2007, 08:30 AM.

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      • #4
        And, just to be certain, you have been continuing to cover his insurance during that entire time?
        The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

        Comment


        • #5
          That's correct.

          Comment


          • #6
            I believe since you have been continuing his health coverage over 6 mos. after he has been off work, you no longer have to. However, please hold for cbg to verify that. He did qualify for continuation of coverage since he has worked for you for 10 yrs & had health ins. during that time. (Ok. law that applies to all employers who offer health ins.)
            Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

            Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

            Comment


            • #7
              I found the below today in the oklahoma law online but I'm not sure it is accurate with whatever revisions and interpretations that may exist. As I interpret it to my situation, I believe this means:

              1. He is still my employee as long as he is under temporary total disability and I can't discharge him.

              2. I cannot cancel his health care coverage unless he failed to pay for it. But since I pay for other employees' coverage, I have to treat him the same and continue to pay his premium. I think that would be under insurance laws rather than the WC law. (?) I don't see anything in the WC law about other benefits but I assume a similar argument could be made about vacation pay.

              I've talked to several professionals about the situation, including an attorney, but have not gotten the same answer twice or have had the answers backed up by citation of rule or law.


              Laws 1941, p. 476, § 1; Laws 1955, p. 485, § 1; Laws 1977, c. 234, § 13, eff. July 1, 1978.
              §85-5. Discharge of employee - Termination of health insurance - Prohibited grounds.
              A. No person, firm, partnership, corporation, or other entity may discharge, or, except for nonpayment of premium, terminate any group health insurance of any employee because the employee has in good faith:
              1. Filed a claim;
              2. Retained a lawyer for representation regarding a claim;
              3. Instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under the provisions of this title;
              4. Testified or is about to testify in any proceeding under the provisions of this title; or
              5. Elected to participate or not to participate in a certified workplace medical plan as provided in Section 14 of this title.
              B. No person, firm, partnership, corporation, or other entity may discharge any employee during a period of temporary total disability solely on the basis of absence from work.
              C. After an employee’s period of temporary total disability has ended, no person, firm, partnership, corporation, or other entity shall be required to rehire or retain any employee who is determined to be physically unable to perform assigned duties. The failure of an employer to rehire or retain any such employee shall in no manner be deemed a violation of this section.
              D. No person, firm, partnership, corporation or other entity may discharge an employee for the purpose of avoiding payment of temporary total disability benefits to the injured employee.
              Added by Laws 1976, c. 217, § 1. Amended by Laws 1992, c. 294, § 3, eff. Sept. 1, 1992; Laws 1994, 2nd Ex. Sess., c. 1, § 21, emerg. eff. Nov. 4, 1994; Laws 1998, c. 353, § 1, eff. Nov. 1, 1998; Laws 2001, 1st Ex. Sess., c. 3, § 6, emerg. eff. Oct. 23, 2001; Laws 2005, 1st Ex.Sess., c. 1, § 13, eff. July 1, 2005.

              §85‑6. Penalty ‑ Damages.
              Except as provided in Section 29 of this act, a person, firm, partnership or corporation who violates any provision of Section 5 of this title shall be liable for reasonable damages, actual and punitive if applicable, suffered by an employee as a result of the violation. An employee discharged in violation of the Workers' Compensation Act shall be entitled to be reinstated to his former position. Exemplary or punitive damage awards made pursuant to this section shall not exceed One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($100,000.00). The burden of proof shall be upon the employee.

              Comment


              • #8
                Yea, it does seem that Okla. Stat. Title 85-5 prohibits the retaliatory discharge of employees who have availed themselves of rights under the Ok. Workers' Comp. Act. Also, no employee may be discharged while receiving temporary total disability benefits solely because of absence from work.

                Hold for cbg to come back - she is a HR person with lots of experience & let's see what she can make of all this.
                Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

                Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

                Comment


                • #9
                  There is a difference between firing someone BECAUSE they filed a workers comp claim (I believe all 50 states prohibit that) and firing someone who has filed a workers comp claim and, nearly a year after the accident, is still unable to return to work and has no clear idea of when they will be able to. With regards to A, you are not firing him BECAUSE he filed a claim. There's a very important distinction there.

                  However, I would have to agree that B seems to be saying that as long as he is collecting TTD benefits, you cannot discharge him. C, however, seems to be saying that you may do so when the period of TTD benefits is over.

                  So. Is he still collecting TTD benefits?
                  The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Yes. He is still collecting TTD benefits. My agent, who's wife is also an HR person and had some input, says I don't have an obligation to keep him employed, continue to pay his health care or other benefits and is pushing me to discharge him. Attorney's take was to not give a pat answer to the question, and advised us to wait until the next doctor's review to see if he would be released. That doctors appointment has come and gone a couple of times since. I read it that I cannot discharge him until he is released to come back to work.

                    Our work load is such that I don't need him if he were able to come back to work. And I don't think he has any intention of returning to work. He said multiple times before the injury he wanted to move on to another occupation.

                    Comment

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