Oregon Senate passes expanded workers’ compensation bill

Senate Bill 418 would pay injured workers for time spent at medical appointments

By: - April 11, 2023 11:04 am
Blacks and Hispanics on a construction site

Oregonians hurt on the job may get expanded workers' compensation coverage to pay for their time spent on medical appointments to treat their injuries. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Oregonians who are hurt on the job may no longer need to dip into vacation and sick time when they go to medical appointments to get treated for their injuries.

The state Senate unanimously passed a bill late Monday that would allow workers to get paid for time spent on getting medical care or physical therapy to treat workplace injuries. The measure now goes to the House. 

Senate Bill 418 would close a gap in the coverage that Oregon employees currently get through the state’s  workers’ compensation system, which pays employees when they miss work due to an on-the-job injury. 

In existing state law, workers with an approved workers’ compensation claim get paid for the time they miss work due to an injury – but only if they miss more than four hours of work at a time. As a result, workers who need regular medical care or therapy for injuries are often not eligible for pay because those appointments are usually less than four hours long. 

Thousands of Oregonians each year benefit from the program. The state approved slightly more than 23,000 workers compensation claims for time off in 2021, state data shows. 

“This is a simple fix that will make people’s lives easier and help workers injured on the job get the care they need,” Sen. Chris Gorsek, D-Troutdale, the bill’s chief sponsor, said in a statement.

The measure has strong support from unions that represent frontline workers, including those who work in health care, manufacturing, food processing and the retail industry. 

The Oregon AFL-CIO, a statewide group of unions that represents 300,000 workers, told lawmakers the current system doesn’t allow workers to use workers’ compensation to fully heal. This is because workers are often cleared to return to work but still have ongoing medical appointments necessary to recover, the group said.

“This leads to workers’ using their personal leave, sick time or other accrued paid time off just to go to medical appointments for their on-the-job injury,” the group said in submitted testimony. “In far too many instances, workers are faced with the choice to fully drain their paid time off, or skip the appointment entirely because they cannot afford to miss work without compensation. This delay in care can have devastating impacts to the worker, the company and the community and economy at large.”

GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.

Ben Botkin
Ben Botkin

Ben Botkin covers justice, health and social services issues for the Oregon Capital Chronicle. Ben Botkin has been a reporter since 2003, when he drove from his Midwest locale to Idaho for his first journalism job. He has written extensively about politics and state agencies in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon. Most recently, he covered health care and the Oregon Legislature for The Lund Report. Botkin has won multiple journalism awards for his investigative and enterprise reporting, including on education, state budgets and criminal justice.

MORE FROM AUTHOR