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What Does Wisconsin’s New Worker’s Compensation Act Mean for Your Business?

As part of the on-going Integrated Risk Solutions Education Seminar Series, John Tindall, Director of Client Claim Advocacy at Integrated Risk discussed the law changes and the two-year cycle for updating the Act during a March 31st seminar.

Wisconsin’s workers’ compensation act was updated March 2, 2016 with several provisions that may prove beneficial to employers, but meaningful control of medical costs remains an elusive goal.

The worker’s compensation act now allows employers to deny temporary disability benefits to injured workers terminated for good cause while working light duty. Repealing the longstanding “Brakebush” rule, this provision gives employers more flexibility in dealing with employees who might use workers’ compensation as a cover for insubordination, absenteeism or poor performance. Employees whose terminations that would be justified under the unemployment statute would not receive disability pay after being fired.

The updated statute calls for a total denial of indemnity benefits for injuries with a causal connection to violation of an employer’s drug or alcohol policy. The statute is unclear as to what proof is required of a causal connection, and in time case law will clarify the standard. In the meantime, employers would be well served to review and carefully enforce their drug and alcohol policies.

The value of permanent partial disability (PPD) and the process for assessing PPD ratings both received updates in the legislation.

  • The weekly PPD rate increased to $342 March 2, and increases again to $362 January 1, 2017.
  • A panel of physicians will be assembled to evaluate the statutory minimum PPD ratings and update them in light of current medical outcomes.
  • Employers are given more clear ability to apportion PPD ratings between current work injuries and prior disabilities. This makes pre-employment screening more crucial, so a baseline can be established.

Missing from the March 2 updates to Wisconsin’s Worker’s Compensation Act is a medical fee schedule. Wisconsin is just one of seven states without a fee schedule, and several studies show medical fees in Wisconsin far outpace the national average. Employers are encouraged to attend upcoming Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council meetings to encourage favorable changes to the act during the next cycle. The Worker’s Compensation Act should next be updated in January 2018.