Capitol Week-in-Review – May 11, 2017

WCAC Begins Work on Worker’s Compensation Reform Legislation

The Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council (WCAC) advises state lawmakers on policy matters concerning the development and administration of the state’s Worker’s Compensation program.

Every two years, the WCAC conducts a systematic review of proposed changes to the state’s WC law offered by management, labor, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) – the state agency which administers the program – and the general public. After completing their analysis, the WCAC submits their consensus recommendations for legislative review and consideration.

On Tuesday, the WCAC began its biennial review of nearly 40 proposed changes to Wisconsin’s Worker’s Compensation law. We have identified nine proposals which are consistent with our public policy objectives – reducing the cost of Worker’s Compensation insurance and\or improving the overall integrity of the Worker’s Compensation program. They are:

  • Require the DWD to establish a Medicare-based fee schedule to bring Wisconsin in line with the majority of states. The initial fee schedule would be set at 150% of Medicare rates for 2017. Thereafter, the fee schedule would be adjusted annually for medical CPI;
  • Allow employers to specify a list of health care providers authorized to provide care for injured workers. The list must include at least six healthcare providers, at least three of whom must be physicians who are geographically accessible and appropriately trained to treat the anticipated work-related injuries of the employees;
  • Prohibit indemnity benefits to an injured worker if the worker intentionally made a false statement as to his\her physical condition after a job offer was made under the following circumstances – the employer relied on the misrepresentation; this reliance was a substantial factor in the hiring decision; and there was a causal connection between the misrepresentation and the injury;
  • Terminate Permanent Total Disability (PTD) benefits once the injured worker has starting receiving Social Security and other retirement benefits;
  • Reduce the statute of limitations to two years except for occupational diseases caused by exposure to toxic substances or injuries requiring a prosthesis or artificial joint. For these exceptions there would be no statute of limitations;
  • Require all initial reports of injuries to be made by the injured worker to the employer according to the employer’s procedures as posted or outlined in an employee handbook within 30 days of the injury;
  • Allow an employer or insurer to request that an injured worker receiving PTD benefits to have their PTD ratings re-evaluated every three years; and
  • Require permanent disability determinations to be made by occupational health physicians or other qualified healthcare providers according to guidelines set forth in law; and

Over the next few months, we will closely monitoring the activities of the WCAC. Our goal will be to have these aforementioned proposals included in the consensus package of reforms submitted by the WCAC to the Wisconsin State Legislature.

Work Permit Reform Legislation Awaiting Gubernatorial Action

Since early February, WIB has been lobbying for legislation that would make it easier for small, independent businesses to hire high school student.

By way of background, under existing state law, a work permit issued by the Wisconsin Division of Equal Rights is required before anyone under the age of 18 is allowed to work in any job with the exception of agriculture or domestic service work. To obtain a work permit, the minor must:

  • provide proof of age;
  • get written consent from a parent or legal guardian to work;
  • have a signed letter from the employer describing the job duties, hours of work, and the time of day the minor will be working; and
  • pay a $10 permit fee – payment of the fee is the responsibility of the employer.

2017 Assembly Bill (AB) 25 eliminates the requirement that 16 and 17 year olds obtain a work permit.

This legislation was approved by the State Assembly last month and the State Senate followed suit on Tuesday. Soon, this proposal will be sent to Governor Walker for his review and consideration. We hope the Governor will sign this bill into law.

DWD Retires Part of Automated Telephone System to File UI Claims

Starting May 24, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD will retire part of a 1990’s-era automated telephone system to file Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims, shifting virtually all filing of initial UI claims online using a computer, tablet or smart phone.

Claimants can call UI help center staff for guidance in using the online process or, if they are unable to use online services, staff will file the claim over the phone. Weekly claims will still be accepted through the automated phone system until the weekly phone system is retired in a future phase.