In discussing these issues, school districts should bear in mind that the general approaches dealt with in this article may be partially or wholly obviated by reason of specific provisions in their Memoranda of Understanding with various collective bargaining organizations. Please do review those agreements to make sure there is no inconsistency.
Further caution needs to be exercised to ensure that if a district has routinely been providing benefits in a manner that paid more money to injured workers than they might be entitled to receive under the strict provisions of the Labor Code and the Education Code, some advance notice of the change in policy may have to be given all employees in order to avoid allegations of discrimination. The change in policy should be prospectively applied.
The rate at which payments of total temporary disability are made is controlled by the average weekly earnings of an injured worker with minimum and maximum payments determined by the date of payment, the date of injury, and the minimum and maximum indemnity rates set out in Labor Code Section 4656. For dates of injury January 1, 2007 and after, the minimum rate at which temporary total disability is paid is $132.25, based on earnings or $198.38 or less. The maximum rate at which temporary total disability is paid is $881.66 based on maximum earnings of $1,322.49. For temporary disability associated with injuries occurring on or after January 1, 2006, automatic increases in the minimum and maximum rates (COLAs) may occur dependent on whether the state’s average weekly wage has increased.
The Education Code Sections 45192, 44977, 44978, and 44984 all deal with the continuation of salary for certificated and classified employees of school districts. Assuming an injured worker’s salary exceeds his temporary disability rate, temporary disability indemnity is paid to the district and the district takes credit for that by deducting it from the salary continuation benefit. Generally salary continuation is not payable when the injured worker would not be employed, e.g. during the several months of summer when school is not in session. During such times temporary total disability would be paid to the employee by the workers’ compensation carrier or the third party administrator. Assuming the injured worker exhausts his paid leave time but is still temporarily and totally disabled his temporary disability benefits can be augmented by utilizing sick leave and paid vacation to the extent necessary to continue him on full salary. The Education Code is clear that in no circumstance should the combination of full salary, half salary, sick leave, vacation, or other paid benefits, exceed the amount the employee would have received in full salary.