Wisconsin Workers Comp Update: How the Recent Changes Impact Employers
By Susan Dorsch, Manager of Claims and Loss Control
On February 29th
, 2016, Governor Scott Walker signed a bill impacting worker’s compensation law in the State of Wisconsin. Some of these changes may affect employees and their use of other benefits offered by employers. These changes can be found in both the Assembly Bill 724 and the Senate Bill 536.
Below are the highlights of these changes:
- Apportionment of permanent disability – The bill makes clear that an employer is only liable for the percentage of permanent disability that occurred while an employee was working for that employer. If a separate percentage of permanent disability was caused by factors outside of employment, the employer is not held responsible for that portion.
- Termination for misconduct or substantial fault – If an injured worker is terminated during the healing period for misconduct or fault, the employer is not liable for temporary disability benefits. Please note: misconduct or substantial fault is as defined in unemployment insurance law.
- Violations of employer drug or alcohol policy – If a worker becomes injured at work through a violation of the company’s drug or alcohol policy, that worker will not be able to receive indemnity payments for the injury. This does not stop medical treatment to the injured worker even if lost wages (indemnity) are discontinued because of the violation.
- Traumatic injuries statute of limitations – The bill shortens the current statute of limitations for traumatic injuries in Wisconsin from 12 years to 6 years.
- Adjust minimum permanent partial disability (PPD) ratings – Minimum PPD ratings will be evaluated a minimum of every eight years by the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) for certain types of injuries for which permanent partial disability is claimed. Before they can be revised, a medical advisory committee of practicing physicians must review and recommend these changes.
- Fraud Investigation and Prosecution – This will allow DWD to seek help from the Department of Justice for fraud investigations. If a basis of fraud is found, it allows DWD to refer the case to either the local district attorney or the Department of Justice for prosecution.
The above amendments may potentially prompt changes in the way workers compensation claims are reported, adjudicated and managed.
Of biggest impact might be the fact that the Statute of Limitations would change from 12 years to 6 years. Up until now, if an employee had medical treatment or lost time from work due to a worker’s compensation claim in Wisconsin, they could come back to the claim for 12 years. Now it will be limited to 6 years and anyone receiving medical treatment or missing time from work for that work related illness or injury after those 6 years may then be looking to their health insurance coverage or short or long term disability benefits for compensation.
Also you may see more employers considering termination of employment, or employees seeking reimbursement for lost time under short term disability benefits if it can be proven that their illness or injury took place while they were in violation of their employer’s drug or alcohol policy. These will be challenging and risky decisions to make and seeking advice of your legal counsel before taking adverse employment action will be very important.
And there may be fear on the part of some employees to use worker’s compensation if they think that reporting a worker’s compensation claim could get them into trouble, so they may simply use medical coverage and short- or long-term disability as opposed to filing a claim of worker’s compensation. To date, no one has ever gone to jail for worker’s compensation fraud in Wisconsin, but with this change in the law, there is a possibility that that could change.
Employers need to stay up-to-date on these and any future changes to the Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation laws. The State of Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development is a helpful resource for workers, employers, insurers, and medical providers. This website also provides legal information. The web address is https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/wc/
. If you would like further information or advice on worker’s compensation, the experts in the claims department at Hausmann-Johnson Insurance would be happy to discuss any questions or concerns you may have.
Susan Dorsch began at Hausmann-Johnson Insurance in August 2014. She has over 20 years of experience as a claims professional. Prior to joining our agency, she held positions at Ohio Casualty Insurance as a Multi-Line Claims Adjuster, and at QBE in the Worker’s Compensation Claims Unit. She also worked at Examworks as a clinical Quality Assurance Councilor. Susan has a BS in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin – Superior.