45 Days of Free Leave? COP (Continuation of Pay) Explained
By Fred E. Beebe
Most Federal workers know that if they are injured on the job they may file a claim with the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). However, Continuation of Pay (COP) seems to be a subject that most Federal workers and many Injury Compensation Specialists have difficulty understanding. The rules of COP can be tricky, so I will attempt to simplify and explain what COP is, and how to properly receive up to 45 days of disability leave from your employing agency.
To be eligible for COP the injured Federal worker must first sustain a Traumatic Injury and report the injury to their employing agency on Form CA-1 or other authorized form within 30 days of the date of injury. The injured worker must also supply medical evidence showing that he or she was disabled for work as a result of the injury during workdays missed. To clarify, an Occupational Disease claim (such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome) is not entitled to COP. Further, if the injured worker waits over 30 days from the date of injury to submit the Traumatic Injury claim, they are no longer eligible for COP. In this case, time missed with medical documentation may be claimed on OWCP Form CA-7, if desired.
Continuation of Pay begins on the day following the date of injury, and runs for 45 straight calendar days. The only exception to the start date is if the injury happened before the workday starts, such as a trip and fall entering the workplace (then begin the 45-day count on that date). In most cases, the first 45 days following the date of injury of any time missed due to the work injury (documented by a medical note of some kind) is covered by COP and not charged to the injured employee’s leave. This is an administrative function carried out by the Injury Compensation Specialist and / or the timekeeper.
The injured worker must present the employing agency with medical evidence supporting disability resulting from the claimed traumatic injury within 10 calendar days after filing a claim for COP. The agency is responsible for advising the claimant of his or her obligation to return to work as soon as possible in accordance with the medical evidence. The employing agency must also inform the claimant of any decision to challenge COP entitlement and/or terminate pay, and the basis for doing so.
The employing agency may challenge a claim for COP on the basis of the information submitted by the claimant, or information garnered by an investigation. OWCP refers to the agency’s right to challenge payment of COP as “controversion.” To “controvert” means to dispute, challenge, or deny validity. Even though a claim is controverted, the employing agency must continue the employee’s regular pay unless one of nine specific conditions is met.
Nine Reasons for COP Controversion
- The disability is a result of an occupational disease or illness.
- The claimant is not an “employee” under the provisions of the Act; that is, serves without pay or nominal pay, is appointed to a position on the office staff of a former president, jurors, etc.
- The employee is neither a citizen nor resident of the United States, or Canada.
- The injury occurred off the Employing Agency’s premises and the employee was not engaged in official “off-premises” duties.
- The employee caused the injury by his or her willful misconduct, or the employee intended to bring about his or her injury or death or that of another person, or the employee’s intoxication was the proximate cause of the injury.
- The injury was not reported on a form approved by OWCP within 30 days of the injury.
- Work stoppage first occurred more than 45 days after the injury.
- The employee first reported the injury after employment was terminated.
- The employee is enrolled in the Civil Air Patrol, Peace Corps, Job Corps, Youth Conservation Corps, work study program, or other group covered by special legislation.
In any case, OWCP makes all final determinations and can overturn the agency controversion and require that COP be paid. Also note that United States Postal Service employees ONLY must have an initial three-day waiting period before COP will be granted.
I hope that this article sheds some light on Continuation of Pay. Please be safe in the workplace, but be aware of your rights and obligations if you do suffer a workplace injury.
Federal Employees’ Compensation Act
Section 5 U.S.C. 8117
Section 5 U.S.C. 8118
Title 20, Code of Federal Regulations, Employees’ Benefits
§ 10.200 through § 10.224
FECA Procedure Manual
2-0200-2.d General Provisions of the FECA, COP
Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Mr. Beebe served over twenty years in the Army around the world in the Signal Corps. He possesses an MBA in Human Resources and works in a related field for the U.S. Government.