If you are injured on the job and unable to work as a result, you can qualify for temporary total disability benefits. These benefits are checks for 2/3 of your usual pay. The way they are calculated is by determining your “average weekly wage” and then paying you 2/3 of that amount.
The calculation of your average weekly wage (AWW) is important, since it’s the basis for determining the amount of your disability benefits. If the insurance company comes up with an AWW that is low, then you are missing out on benefits. It can really add up over the weeks, and maybe months, that you are out of work recovering.
There are a couple of different ways to calculate an employee’s AWW in Illinois. For someone working full time, year-round, with an annual salary, you basically take their salary and divide by 52. (There might be issues that affect this formula, but it’s the basic idea.)
The issue for teachers is that they often work fewer than 52 weeks. Their salary is based on the school year – 40 weeks, for example. Yet, many opt to get their pay spread out over 52 weeks. So do you divide their salary by 52 or 40? It makes a big difference.
Illinois law favors the employees in these situations. It says that you divide the total earnings (salary) by the actual time worked. For most teachers, this is the school year. For example, if we are talking about a teacher whose contract requires them to work 40 weeks of the year and who earns $40,000. Their average weekly wage ($40k divided by 40) is $1000. Even if they don’t actually get paid $1,000/week because they opt to be paid over 52 weeks, this is the correct calculation for benefits.
If the $40k is divided by 52, then the teacher’s average weekly wage drops to approximately $770. This calculation is incorrect, but it’s often up to the employee and their attorney to catch the mistake.
The same rule applies to seasonal workers and potentially others who didn’t work the whole year before their injury. Even if you just took a few weeks of unpaid vacation or leave, look into how it affects your AWW calculation. You could be leaving a lot of money on the table, especially if you end up getting temporary total disability payments for an extended period of time.