543 Employee Rights

543.1 Waiver of Compensation Rights

No employer or other person may require an employee or other claimant to enter into any agreement, either before or after an injury or death, to waive his or her right to claim compensation under FECA. No waiver of compensation rights shall be valid.

543.2 Withdrawal of Claim

An employee may withdraw his or her claim (but not the notice of injury) by so requesting in writing to OWCP at any time before OWCP determines eligibility for benefits. Any COP granted to an employee after a claim is withdrawn must be charged to sick or annual leave or considered an overpayment of pay at the employee’s option.

543.3 Medical Care

FECA guarantees the employee the right to an initial choice of physician. The employee is entitled to receive all medical services, appliances, or supplies that a qualified physician prescribes and OWCP determines necessary to treat the injury. For continued payment of medical expenses by OWCP, a change of the employee’s initial choice of physician is permitted only with OWCP approval. Referrals for further examination, testing, or medical care by the physician designated on the Form CA–16 are covered. (See 545.4 for implementing medical care.)

543.4 Continuation of Regular Pay or Leave for Disabling Injuries

If the injury is disabling, an eligible employee may elect to have regular pay continued for up to 45 calendar days or to use annual leave or sick leave. (See 545.72 for explanation of eligibility for COP.)

543.41 Continuation of Regular Pay

For most employees who sustain a traumatic injury, FECA provides that the employer must continue the employee’s regular pay during any periods of resulting disability up to a maximum of 45 calendar days (see 545.72 for explanation of eligibility for COP). Such pay is subject to taxes and all other usual payroll deductions. If an employee elects COP and the claim is subsequently denied, any COP granted to the employee must be charged to sick or annual leave or considered an overpayment of pay at the employee’s option (see 437).

543.42 Sick or Annual Leave

The following provisions apply:

  1. The use of annual or sick leave does not extend the 45–calendar–day COP period, which begins with the first period of time lost after the day or shift of injury.
  2. Leave is limited to the amount that the employee has accrued.
  3. An employee may subsequently request COP in lieu of previously requested sick and⁄or annual leave, subject to leave carryover provisions. However, such a request must be made within 1 year of the date that leave is used, or within 1 year of the date OWCP approves the claim, whichever is later.
  4. An employee who elects to use sick or annual leave during the 45–day period in which COP is available is not entitled to buy back that leave with later compensation payments.
  5. Pay that is attributable to the leave period is subject to taxes and other usual payroll deductions.
  6. An employee may use sick or annual leave after the COP period expires or during a period of disability due to an occupational disease or illness. In such cases, the employee may be entitled to buy back the leave with compensation payments (see 512.923 and 545.84). The buy–back must be initiated within 1 year of the return, or within 1 year of the date OWCP approves the claim, whichever is later. Only employees who are on the rolls of the Postal Service may buy back leave.