Part 4: Workers’ Compensation Mysteries Unraveled

A huge stereotype about workers’ compensation is that they coddle any employee that files for compensation, and that employees can milk the system to receive benefits for as long they want. In many ways this is a misconception. Wyoming Workers’ Compensation actually offers a few programs to help incentivize employees to get back to work, as well as protect employers from employees trying to take advantage of the system. The most beneficial of these programs is the Restricted & Light Duty Program.

Restricted & Light Duty Programs:

The sole purpose of the Restricted & Light Duty Program is to incentivize employees to not miss work from injuries when they are medically able to perform some work functions. Obviously, if doctor’s recommendations are for the employee to stay in bed then they cannot come into work; however, doctors will usually place restrictions on what patients can do, rather than just say “stay home in bed.”

As long as employees are away from work for an injury they will can potentially be collecting compensation, which means that employers will be penalized, typically in the form of higher EMRs, which would lead to higher premiums. If medically able to perform any work, Wyoming Workers’ Compensation would encourage employers to find work for these injured employees that fits with their medical requirements. In doing so, employers can reduce impacts on EMRs, OSHA Form 300s, and premium payments.

The employer’s responsibility would be to find work the employee can medically perform. This work does not have to be full time or in line with their typical job scope. For example, a full time truck driver might be assigned a ¾ time position doing filing and other office work. This would satisfy the requirements for the Wyoming Workers’ Compensation Restricted & Light Duty Program. The restricted or light duty does not have to offer equivalent pay either. If the injured employee is to perform the same job as an existing person, he or she must be paid equivalent to that existing position. If he or she is to do a job that nobody else performs, they can be paid minimum wage.

When an employer is able to put employees on restricted or light duty, it benefits all parties involved. The employer benefits because the employee regardless of the employee decision of whether to accept the assignment. Once the employee is offered restricted or light duty, any compensation paid to the employee no longer counts against the employer. This pay does not affect the employer’s premiums or EMR. The employer also benefits because they often can assign this individual to perform work that the company is lacking. Many employers will use this position for clerical work that has been put off because it is not a priority. This gives the employer a minimum wage laborer to complete this work. This program also helps get employees back to their normal job function quicker and reduces fraudulent claims because employees will recognize that they cannot get paid to just sit around the house or take time off work unless the injury is very severe.

This program benefits the employee because they can get paid more than they otherwise would have. Typically Wyoming Workers’ Compensation will pay an injured employee 2/3 of their normal pay. If an employee is able to accept restricted or light duty, they will receive some amount of pay from the employer. At this point Wyoming Workers’ Compensation will cover 80% of the difference between what the employer is paying for restricted or light duty and what the employee would normally get paid. If the employee is offered restricted or light duty and refuses the work, their compensation would drop to 1/3 of their normal pay. For example, if an employee normally makes $3,000 per month, Wyoming Workers’ Compensation would pay him $2,000 per month if he were injured on the job ($2,000 = $3,000 x 2/3). If this employee refuses restricted or light duty his compensation would become $1,000 ($1,000 = $3,000 x 1/3). Assuming the employee accepted restricted duty that paid $1,000, Wyoming Workers’ Compensation would pay that employee $1,600, for a total monthly pay for that employee of $2,600 ($2,600 = $1,000 + ($3,000-$1,000)x0.8). The employee would also benefit because studies have shown that employees that are placed on restricted or light duty typically have fast recovery times because they have more have a sense of purpose and a more positive atmosphere.

Wyoming Workers’ Compensation would also receive a benefit from this program because the 80% of the difference they pay typically is less than the 2/3 of monthly pay they would otherwise pay the employee. They also save money if employees refuse restricted or light duty because the compensation they pay that employee would cut in half. The final benefit for Wyoming Workers’ Compensation is that the employee is more likely to receive compensation for a shorter duration.

Overall, this program is designed to benefit the injured employee, the employer, and Wyoming Workers’ Compensation. All parties have financial incentives to participate in this program, and it creates a more honest system where employees are incentivized to limit their dependence on workers’ compensation and get back to work as soon as they are medically able.

This is the system that Wyoming Workers’ Compensation has in place. Most states have similar programs in place. For help managing a Restricted & Light Duty Program call CS Consulting at 307-235-9112.

*Unless specific citations are shown, all answers are based on interpretations provided by authorized officials. As such, all information is deemed reliable, but not guaranteed.