One of my employees got hurt at work during regular hours, and we sent him to the doctor for treatment. He didn’t finish getting treated by the doctor until a few hours after he would have been scheduled to end his normal work day. Do I have to pay him for the time he spent at the doctor, and if so, how much?
Your situation poses a couple of questions:
• The first question would be whether the employer has any obligation to pay wages for the time spent by the employee traveling to, and being seen by a medical professional as the result of a work-related injury/illness?
• The second question is: if there is any obligation to pay wages, what exactly is that obligation?
Both state and federal law touch on the scenario you’ve outlined for us, and I’ll explain how the two laws interact to address both of your questions.
Day of Injury
The federal regulation interpreting the Fair Labor Standards Act provides that “[t]ime spent by an employee in waiting for and receiving medical attention on the premises or at the direction of the employer during the employee’s normal working hours on days when he is working constitutes hours worked.” (29 Code of Federal Regulations 785.43)
This means that the employer would be responsible for paying the employee wages on the day of the injury, up to the point in time the employee was scheduled to end his normal work day, since you required him to be seen by the medical professional as a result of his work-related injury.
The employer need not pay the employee for time spent at the medical professional’s office beyond what would have been the employee’s normal quitting time.
Furthermore, California Labor Code Section 4600(e)(1) makes it clear that the employee shall be compensated for follow-up medical appointments required by the employer or its insurance carrier by payment of a day of temporary disability indemnity from the workers’ compensation insurance carrier, and not the payment of wages by the employer.
To summarize, you would have to pay your employee his/her normal daily wages on the day the employee is injured and first goes to see a medical professional; but you would not be responsible to pay any wages beyond what the employee was scheduled to receive for that day.
Moreover, any other absences from work caused by the injury would be paid for by your workers’ compensation insurance company, and would not come directly from you, the employer.
The Labor Law Helpline is a service to California Chamber of Commerce preferred and executive members. For expert explanations of labor laws and Cal/OSHA regulations, not legal counsel for specific situations, call (800) 348-2262 or submit your question at www.hrcalifornia.com.