Do Temporary Summer Workers Qualify for Workers’ Compensation?
Summer is one of the seasons when temporary workers are hired for jobs to handle increased workloads at popular vacation destinations. In the northeast, it is also a time when there is an increased demand for labor in the construction and landscaping industries. Approximately 2.7 million workers in the U.S. are temporary workers, which is approximately 10 percent of the entire workforce.
What are Common Seasonal Injuries That Happen During Summer?
Temporary summer work is often performed outside. In Pennsylvania, summer weather in July and August can reach well above 90 degrees. It also gets quite humid, which makes the heat index much hotter. The combination of hot and humid also puts more strain on the body.
Some conditions temporary outdoor workers can experience include dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. Dehydration will happen if a worker does not drink enough water. Symptoms can include thirst, muscle cramps, dizziness, or sluggishness. While dehydration alone may not be a very serious condition, the associated symptoms may make a worker more likely to injure themselves in a fall or other accident because he or she is not as alert as to when he or she is properly hydrated.
More serious heat-related conditions are heat exhaustion and heatstroke. In heat exhaustion, symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, and irritability. If this condition is not addressed in time with adequate hydration, cooling, and rest, it can sometimes worsen to heatstroke. This is a life-threatening condition where the body loses its ability to regulate its temperature. A worker displaying any symptoms must seek immediate medical attention.
Illnesses can also be covered by Workers’ Compensation if they are caused or exacerbated by work. Outdoor workers are at risk of getting skin cancer. These cases are more difficult to prove than discrete events, like a slip and fall accident. Yet, it is possible to get compensated if the condition can be shown as being work-related.
Outdoor construction workers are also susceptible to conditions related to heat exposure. There are additional hazards at these work sites. Typical injuries that can occur are caused by falls from ladders, and being struck by objects falling from structures, which can lead to broken bones, back injuries, or arm sprains.
Outdoor landscapers use the equipment, such as lawnmowers and chainsaws. Injuries from using or maintaining equipment can range from serious cuts or contusions to lost fingers and broken bones.
A common hazard of construction and landscaping work is noise. Much of the equipment used at these worksites operates at very high decibels. Extended exposure to elevated noise levels, particularly if proper hearing protection is not made available and used, can cause hearing loss.
What is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ Compensation is an insurance program required by states to help cover expenses when workers are injured. Employers may obtain insurance through a third-party private insurer or pay into a common fund administered by a state agency. The insurance policy or fund is used to pay out successful claims to injured workers.
An injured worker files a claim with the relevant agency to begin the process of seeking compensation for an injury experienced at work that is serious enough to miss work. Although every state is a little different, all Workers’ Compensation programs offer similar benefits that include the following:
- Wage loss benefits
- Payment for many medical and health care costs
- Compensation for a temporary disability
- Compensation for a total disability
- Death benefits to survivors
Only an injury or illness that happened at work or worsened at work is covered under the program. The injured worker does not need to prove negligence on the part of his or her employer.
Does Being a Temporary Workers Impact Access to Workers’ Compensation?
Temporary workers are able to file a claim for Workers’ Compensation if they get injured at work. The amount of compensation a worker is entitled to be determined by his or her salary history.
Workers’ Compensation Lost Salary Benefit Limitations
The program provides a fractional amount of lost salary to injured workers while they recuperate. It does not compensate for actually lost salary. The amount is determined by calculating the average weekly wage (AWW) earned in the year in which the injury occurred.
If a temporary worker suffered an injury during the portion of the year when he or she was not working, he or she will have a reduced AWW.
A maximum weekly benefit is adjusted each year. In Pennsylvania, the amount was recently increased to $1,081 per week. Pennsylvania calculates the benefit in a tiered system. Tiered compensation rates for AWW’s are as follows:
- Above $1,621.50 compensation is the maximum of $1,081.
- From $810.76 to $1,621.50 compensation is two-thirds of the AWW.
- From $600.56 to $810.75 compensation is $540.50.
- For less than $600.56 compensation is 90 percent of the AWW.
Sometimes, these payments are offset by other income. This can be true if the injured worker receives unemployment benefits. Also, if a worker is able to work at a different, perhaps less strenuous job, and is paid for that work while on Workers’ Compensation, then the benefit amount can be reduced by the amount being paid for that work.
What if I Get Permanently Injured as a Temporary Employee?
Workers’ Compensation is intended to provide broad protection to workers injured on the job. If the worker is permanently disabled and the disability impairs his or her ability to perform the job, he or she may qualify for permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits. These are paid to workers who are partially disabled either temporarily or permanently and are able to return to work in a modified duty capacity or a job that is lower pay than their previous job.
If the worker is less than 50 percent disabled, the PPD payments will be time-limited. If a worker experiences total disability for a temporary period of time (TTD) he or she can receive benefits that begin after the seventh day of missing work. These are also time-limited.
The area of determining the disability extent and duration and what benefits the condition qualifies is complex. It is advisable to seek legal counsel.
What if I Was Hired Through an Agency?
Many temporary jobs are filled using employment agencies. The employment relationship between temporary workers, staffing companies, and employers can be difficult to sort out and has the potential to create loopholes regarding coverage. Some states require a staffing agency to maintain protection over workers while other states require the employer to provide coverage.
In some cases, when an entity is responsible for coverage, it exercises control over both the work performed and the manner in which it is performed. States vary in this area, and it is best to check with an attorney admitted to practice in the state in which you will file a claim for proper advice.
Processing a Claim
The Workers’ Compensation program has deadlines and reporting requirements that must be met to avoid being disqualified from coverage. The worker must report the injury to his or her employer within a designated period of time. Due to time constraints, it is beneficial to seek legal representation right after a work-related injury occurs. In addition, an examination may be required by a doctor of the employer’s choosing. Record keeping of medical care and costs is important as well and will be needed as proof when seeking to recover medical and health care costs.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Gross & Kenny, LLP Help Injured Temporary Workers
Our experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Gross & Kenny, LLP help temporary workers understand their rights. If you are a temporary worker and have a work-related injury, contact us today. For a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 215-512-1500. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania.