Assembly Bill 724 was introduced on January 15th, 2016 by Representative Spiros and was cosponsored by Senator Nass. This bill makes various changes to the worker's compensation law, as administered by the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and the Division of Hearings and Appeals (DHA) in the Department of Administration. This bill unanimously passed in the Assembly and the Senate on February 9th, 2016 and February 16th, 2016 respectively. Below are some of the highlights of Assembly Bill 724 and how it will impact Wisconsin Workers Compensation policy.
Violations of employer drug or alcohol policies
This bill provides that if an employee violates an employer policy against drug or alcohol use and such violation is casual to the employee's injury, then neither the employee nor the employee's dependents may receive, under the worker's compensation law, any compensation, including the death benefit, relating to that injury. The bill specifies, however, that this provision does not reduce or eliminate an employers' liability for the cost of treating the employee's injury. Under current law, if an employee is injured as a result of intoxication by alcohol, controlled substances, or controlled substance analogs, the compensation, including the death benefit, is reduced by 15 percent.
Employees suspended or terminated for misconduct or substantial fault
This bill provides that an employer is not liable for temporary disability benefits during an employee's healing period if the employee is suspended or terminated from employment due to misconduct, as defined in the unemployment insurance law, or substantial fault, as defined in the unemployment insurance law, by the employee connected with the employee's work.
The unemployment insurance law defines "misconduct" as action or conduct evincing such willful or wanton disregard of any employer's interests as is found in
1) deliberate violation or disregard of standards of behavior than an employer has a right to expect of his or her employees
2) carelessness or negligence of such degree of recurrence as to manifest culpability, wrongful intent, or evil design in disregard of the employer's interests or to show an intentional and substantial disregard of an employer's interests or of an employee's duties and obligations to his or her employer.
The unemployment insurance law defines "substantial fault" as acts or omissions of an employee over which the employee exercised reasonable control that violate reasonable requirements of the employee's employer, but not including minor infractions, inadvertent errors, or failure to perform work due to insufficient skill, ability, or equipment.
Apportionment of permanent disability
This bill provides that if an injured employee has incurred permanent disability, but a percentage of that disability was caused by an accidental injury sustained in the cause of employment and a percentage of that disability was caused by other factors, whether occurring before or after the time of the accidental injury, the employer is liable only for the percentage of permanent disability that was caused by the accidental injury. If, however, previous permanent disability is attributable to occupational exposure with the same employer, the employer is also liable for that previous permanent disability.
This bill provides that an application for worker's compensation for a traumatic injury filed more than six years after the date of injury or date that work's compensation was last paid is barred by the statute of limitations, benefits or treatment expenses for traumatic injury becoming due six years after the date of injury or the date that compensation was last paid are paid by DWD from the Work Injury Supplemental Benefit (WISB) fund, if that date is before April 1, 2006.
Under current law, an application for worker's compensation that is not filed within 12 years from the date of the injury or from the date that worker's compensation was last paid is barred by the statue of limitation and, in cases in which there is no statue of limitations, benefits or treatment expenses for traumatic injury becoming due 12 years after the date of injury or the date that compensation was last paid are paid by DWD from the WISB fund if that date is before April 1, 2006.
If you have questions or would like more knowledge about how this bill may impact your Workers Compensation program, please reach out to your Commercial Insurance Advisor at Ansay & Associates, LLC