The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) has an incentive program for employers called the “Stay at Work Program”. L&I describes it as a win-win for injured workers and employers. Under this program, employers can offer injured workers a transitional or light duty job while the worker is recovering from their injuries. If employers meets certain requirements, they can be reimbursed for 50% of the base wages to the injured worker and some costs associated with training, clothing or tools. The requirements for this employer benefit are set forth in RCW 51.32.090 and WAC 296-16A-020.
In short, for a transitional or light duty job offer to be valid, the employer must create a job description that details the specific requirements of the transitional or light duty job. Then, only if the attending provider approves the job, the employer may offer the job to the injured worker. When offering the job, the employer must make the offer in writing. The offer should include pertinent details like job description, attending provider approval, location, schedule, and rate of pay.
While L&I describes this program as a positive for both injured workers and employers, I’m very skeptical. The reason for my skepticism is because I think these offers are often made purely for the purpose of securing the cost saving incentives. It is not a genuine desire to return the injured worker to work. I base my opinion on countless instances where employers provide injured workers with insufficient documentation for the offer, pressure on the injured worker to do work outside the scope of the offer, and impose strict and inflexible rules related to employment. Then, the minute the injured worker slips up even a little, they are often terminated “for cause”. Once this occurs, employers argue the injured worker should not be entitled to benefits because it is the injured workers’ fault they are not working. In fact, I can only think of one instance that did not end up in one of the scenarios I’ve just described.
I’d like to support incentives like this that encourage more positive results for employers and injured workers. I don’t support this incentive program because it is being mis-used to the disadvantage of injured workers, which is contrary to the intent and purpose of the Industrial Insurance Act.