Wisconsin may still see some reforms to our Workers Compensation Law during this current legislative session. The Workers Compensation Advisory Council’s Agreed Bill SB-536 was passed unanimously by the Committee on Labor and Government Reform February 4, 2016 and is now available for final approval by both the senate and the house before heading to Governor Walker’s desk.
This bill's reform will bring forth quite a bit of change to our current workers compensation law. Not only will we see a change in the state's record long statute of limitations, but also a shift in liability. What we won't see this go-round are changes that benefit medical cost containment such as a medical fee schedule.
A summary of some of the key reforms in the Agreed Bill SB-536 (not an all-inclusive list):
- An employer is only liable for the percentage of permanent disability that was the result of an accidental injury sustained while in the course of employment and not any pre-existing disability from prior injuries.
- The employer will no longer be liable for temporary disability benefits when an injured worker is suspended or terminated due to misconduct or substantial fault during their healing period.
- When an employee’s injury can be causally connected to the employee’s violation of the employer’s drug or alcohol policy the injured worker and their dependents will not be eligible for indemnity benefits under the law, including the death benefit. This does not limit the employer’s liability for the cost of treating the employee’s injury.
- The state’s record long statute of limitations for traumatic injuries of 12 years will be reduced to 6 years.
- The bill will require the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) at a minimum to review the permanent partial disability scheduled ratings at least once every 8 years. A medical advisory group will be appointed, including practicing physicians, to make revision recommendations based on typical loss of function to those current ratings.
Employees will also experience positive benefits with the WCAC bill such as annual increases for permanent partial disability payments. Along with this, workers will be allowed to work a specific amount of hours while pursuing vocational rehabilitation services without a decrease in their temporary disability benefits.
Many exciting changes are on the horizon. Workers compensation remains a pertinent topic on many employers minds as something that must be continuously managed.