...She remembers the next few hours as frustrating: The ambulance crew didn’t seem to know how to treat her injury. The emergency room staff initially thought her accident involved a few liters of hydrofluoric acid. After she sat for several hours in an exam room using a wet paper towel to soothe the burn, doctors sent her home with instructions to wash the area with soap and water, saying there wasn’t much else they could do.But that frustration was minor compared with what happened over the next several months, as Dastjerdi landed in the maddeningly complex world of US workers’ compensation laws and how they do—or do not—cover medical expenses for graduate students injured while working in a research lab. Dastjerdi dealt with collection notices for overdue hospital bills and confusing and contradictory information from BU officials. Eventually she hired a lawyer who convinced the university to pay some of her medical expenses.Dastjerdi is far from the only US graduate student or postdoctoral researcher to be injured while at work. She is also not the only one to have been surprised that collecting a paycheck does not safeguard against personally paying medical bills for work injuries. Nor is BU the only institution with unclear policies—a C&EN review found that other schools’ stances seem similarly vague, and a federal fight continues over whether graduate students are considered employees for certain purposes. It’s yet another vulnerability for graduate students in a system in which they have the least money and power.
I had an injury that needed some stitches (broke some glass into my thumb) when I was in graduate school, but I genuinely don't remember who paid my bill. This is one of those weird gray areas where schools will do what they can to pretend that graduate students aren't employees because they're students-in-name-partially-and-workers-in-name-partially.
Another reminder for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to not become Schrödinger's employee, and determine their status in terms of worker's compensation, benefits and the like. (Short answer: whatever status benefits the university? That's your status.)
It's 2020, and the above is still true. Read the whole thing.