Thinking about terminating an employee who has filed a workman's comp claim? Extreme caution is warranted in navigating these dangerous waters.
State Laws Protect Workers
Terminating an employee who has filed a workman's comp claim is not prohibited. Most states, however, impose stiff penalties for those incidences deemed wrongful termination: When an employee is fired because of their claim. This can include fines, jail time, or both.
Tips to Reduce the Risk of Retaliation & Wrongful Termination Claims
- Know Statutory Worker Protections
Most state statutes indicate it is unlawful to discipline/terminate an employee who has filed a claim, and is considered a crime.
- Stay True to Company (Handbook) Rules and Policies . . .
Including rules for progressive discipline and termination. Does your safety handbook note these specific termination grounds? Has the employee been counseled verbally/in writing?
- Consider How Similar Situations Have Been Handled
If termination is harsher than past punishments you have handed out for a similar offense, the firing could be seen as retaliation or discrimination.
- Carefully Reflect On Facts, Circumstances and Timing
If an employee was being investigated for misconduct four weeks ago, but suffered an injury 3 weeks later, documented disciplinary actions and witness testimony could support a later termination, as the length of the investigation may not be seen as related to the claim. If you took no disciplinary or investigative steps, however, establishing the termination as unrelated to the workman’s comp claim will be difficult to prove.
Workman's comp waters seem particularly shark infested as of late? The experts at Minnesota Comp Advisor can help you find your way to safety. Learn how we can help you avoid workers comp risks today.
As marijuana becomes increasingly available medically and recreationally across the nation, complications surrounding marijuana in the workplace will continue to grow. How can you keep employees safe while still upholding their civil liberties?
Five Ways to Keep Your Workplace Safe Despite Changing Marijuana Laws
- Begin with hiring and training practices.
Before hiring for a given position, consider whether off-duty use of marijuana could affect on-the-job performance and safety surrounding any duty, not just essential ones.
- Familiarize yourself with state and federal laws.
Some states don't require an employer to accommodate employee use of marijuana if it prevents them from fulfilling any of their job responsibilities. For ADA requests, however, HR and legal council may be necessary to determine accommodation of marijuana in the workplace.
- Focus on performance.
Make safety a part of the company culture, beginning with employment and safety manuals.
- Learn to recognize impairment.
Train managers on how to recognize impairment and company procedures should it be a factor, particularly at the time of a workplace accident.
- Consider drug testing.
Familiarize yourself with state/federal drug testing laws and policies, noting the difference between pre-employment and for-cause testing. In the event of an incident, testing could indicate the presence and level of drugs in an employee’s system. It can also be used to determine whether employees are impaired and unable to safely perform job duties.
If you choose to avoid drug testing, consider alternatives such as psychomotor testing, which measures reaction time and coordination and has proven to dramatically improve safety results.
Marijuana in the workplace presenting unexpected challenges? Minnesota Comp Advisor can help. Contact us today.
Pain management in the workers comp arena can be particularly challenging. In combination with the glut of pre-existing conditions suffered by many Americans, the complexity of managing injuries within the system can be frustrating for all parties, leading to poorer outcomes for all. How can you thwart the common pitfalls of treatment?
Look at the System from the Eyes of Injured Workers
Attributing negative pain management outcomes to a worker’s desire for financial gain is overly simplistic. Viewing the process from ‘the other side’ and opening communication lines can go a long way toward showing you care about your injured workers’ needs and fostering a speedy recovery.
Do You Understand What Workers Comp Patients Go Through?
- Delays in treatment despite severe pain are a known contributor to slow/poor recovery outcomes.
- Accident investigations to determine liability/wrongdoing.
- The constant need for approval/vetting of desired treatment protocols to gain relief/function.
- Fear of job loss and financial insufficiency.
- Reduction in the capacity to contribute at home and at work.
- Loss of personal control and self-efficiency that can lead to hopelessness, depression, and ‘illness behavior.’
- The need to constantly ‘prove’ pain, a subjective symptom, to show injuries as genuine for continued treatment.
- Isolation from coworkers, friends, and family.
Set Injured Workers Up for Success
Go the distance, encouraging return-to-work by instituting light duty protocols or necessary equipment/environmental adaptations. Use this as the foundation for your caring support, boosting the social support system of injured workers, and putting them on the path to lifestyle and financial normalcy.
Pain management and productivity in the work environment can go hand-in-hand. Discover new ways to succeed with Minnesota Comp Advisor today.
Chronic pain affects a staggering 100 million Americans. Its prevalence continues to rise, and with it, so does the incidence of those using prescription narcotics like opioids for pain. The workers comp industry is working hard – and succeeding – in curbing narcotic use in chronic pain cases (especially compared to the public center). However, this mode of treatment continues to be a wrench in the works of positive treatment outcomes.
When a workers comp claim involves narcotic use, claim costs rise $20,000 more, on average, than those without. Other increases include indirect costs, such as the probability of chronic work loss – where the incidence is six times greater when opioids are involved.
How Can You Help Buck the Trend?
The faster injuries are reported and addressed, the better the prognosis.
Drug utilization review should occur often, at specific points in the claim, with drug types and duration of use closely monitored, and alternatives to narcotics prescribed whenever appropriate.
With the help of third party administrators that take advantage of predictive analytics for monitoring claims expenses. These can help you identify claims patterns surrounding narcotic use so you can pinpoint problems and brainstorm collaborative solutions for improving patient outcomes.
Strive for Return-to-Work
Any time a worker is injured to the point they lose time from work, there is a risk they may not return-to-work. With narcotics usage, this risk is significantly higher. Boost success with frequent employer/employee contact and modified duty whenever possible.
Curb narcotic use with proven tactics, doing your part to help control the rising opioid epidemic. Contact MinnesotaCompAdvisor to learn more today.
Catastrophic workman's comp claims are especially challenging to manage. Care of injured workers is often fragmented, with multiple providers and no holistic, long-term plan of care. Without centralized management, optimal care and quality of life cannot be achieved, leaving health to deteriorate and costs to creep to alarming levels. Fortunately, there are ways to proactively and successfully manage catastrophic claims.
How Can You Pave the Way to Effective Catastrophic Claims Management?
Understand the scope of the problem.
Catastrophic workman's comp claims account for only 1% of claims – but 20-30% of total medical spending in the workcomp arena. Medically complex and costly, such injuries require sophisticated care, equipment, and rehabilitation. Such life-altering injuries require a high-touch, compassionate response and include:
- Brain/spinal injuries
- Vision loss
- Severe burns
- Multiple traumas or amputations
Strive for collaborative care.
Safeguarding patient well-being while controlling costs is possible. Whether in-house or through a third-party provider. Develop a collaborative, team approach to provide ongoing coordination of services from primary care to equipment, drug utilization, home care and support.
Notify your catastrophic claims team while the injured worker is still in the hospital to ensure a smoother progression from hospital to home care, especially in the event medical equipment such as a wheelchair is necessary.
Don’t overlook the big picture.
Uncover other ways to pave the way to more effective catastrophic workman's comp claims management in part 2 of this Minnesota Comp Advisor series.
Comprehensive evaluation(s) of long-term needs are key to a successful transition. An in-depth evaluation of injuries, comorbidities, home and family situations, and injured worker feedback can head-off unexpected and costly complications.
The workers comp arena is outperforming traditional healthcare settings in reducing the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed.
According to U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) data, despite attempts to increase awareness of opioid dangers, prescriptions continue to rise. The average days’ supply has climbed 33% from 13-days in 2006 to nearly 18-days in 2014 – three times as high as 1999 numbers. In workers’ comp cases, however, a study released in June by the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Workers Compensation Research Institute shows frequency and strength of opioid prescriptions decreasing year-over-year.
It's believed the extra hoops workers comp prescribers must jump through in order to dispense opioid prescriptions are contributing to the decline. Claims management programs and workcomp formularies calling for utilization reviews are a major motivator, as is the reduction in claims costs. Downers Grove, Illinois-based Coventry, found an 8.5% drop in opioid use coincided with a 9.9% decrease in cost-per-claim when comparing current data to 2015 figures.
Opioid crisis taking a toll on your company? Discover ways you can help in addressing this national epidemic with the expert guidance of Minnesota Comp Advisor today.
The CDC is now working on analyzing the collected data to better understand how it can further spur change in the opioid epidemic. It's now known that the benefits of opioids in chronic pain management were overestimated while risks were marginalized. It's also known that opioids have been increasingly prescribed for a glut of problems, for longer time periods and at progressively higher doses. CDC report co-author Dr. Debbie Dowell admitted necessary practice changes often take years to implement despite evidence of safer/more effective options.
Work comp costs out of control? Take your toughest questions to the area experts in workmen’s comp at Minnesota Comp Advisor.
Please make sure to check our events page for upcoming events that will educate you on how to control your worker's compensation insurance premiums and experience modification factor.
Also please check out these recent articles for a more in-depth understanding of the topic:
Work Comp Management is Growing Increasingly Complex
Understanding the Time Limitations for Catastrophic Work Comp Claims
Test Your Knowledge on Worker's Compensation Insurance Coverage
Creeping Work Comp Claims - Identify and Manage Them Part One
Creeping Work Comp Claims - Identify and Manage Them Part Two
The Benefits of Pre-Employment Assessments
Make sure to check back on our blog every Monday and Wednesday for articles and information that actually provides tips and strategies to control your work comp rates.
Investigating a workplace incident offers insight into job site hazards and identifying potential shortcomings in safety, health, and operational procedures. OSHA strongly encourages these investigations following any incident in which a worker is hurt, as well as ‘close calls’ or ‘near misses.’ Intelligence gathered from these investigations can help in devising and implementing corrective actions integral to preventing future incidents.
Who Should Conduct These Investigations?
Incident investigations are typically performed by a supervisor, but better results are gained when managers and employees work together as a team in dissecting the incident. Each brings a different knowledge and perspective, allowing for a clearer picture.
What Am I Looking For?
Focus on identifying and correcting root causes, rather than immediate causes or placing blame. Looking to simple carelessness or failure to follow procedures is shortsighted – and often misleading. Overlooking the root cause will simply lead to a repeat incident.
Finding the necessary systemic changes also helps maintain morale and productivity, showing your commitment to providing a safe and healthful workplace.
How Do I Make the Best Use of this Information?
Investigating a workplace incident shouldn't end at determining root cause. Start with identifying deficiencies in training, operational procedures, equipment use, or safety and health measures currently in-place. Then, action must be taken to implement effective corrective measures in a timely manner, and understanding why it wasn't previously addressed.
This is key to minimizing or eliminating the potential for similar future incidents, thwarting unnecessary employee injury, and the need for subsequent investigations.
Have the causes of workplace injury left you scratching your head? Minnesota Comp Advisor can help you forge a better path to safety. Learn how today.
Looking to avoid a lengthy workman's comp insurance trial? You may be considering worker’s comp settlement as an option. An important decision, discussing the pros and cons of settlement with a trusted workmen’s comp advisor is essential to making the right decision, as each case is unique.
Most workers choose to settle after weighing their options and deciding monies received in a settlement are enough to make them worry about potentially losing those funds in a hearing. A possible gamble, expert advisement is necessary to predict your chances of hearing success and if settlement is advisable. Considering waiting out a hearing? Remember, the judge alone has the power to determine worker’s comp benefits, awarding benefits owed to the worker to-date, then as ongoing weekly benefits until an event occurs that results in their termination.
To-date settlements mean future claims can be brought forth unless limited by settlement terms. These are typically instituted in limited claims or when the insurer didn’t cover a few bills.
• Full, final and complete:
Most often used in denied claims, full, final and complete settlements typically involve a claim with multiple disputed issues or in instances where workers cannot return to work for the date-of-injury employer again.
Future claims for medical treatment may be sought (though not all may be covered).
Part of the settlement funds are allocated for future medical treatment.
After the reviewing judge issues an award, the employer/insurer has 14 days to issue payment.
Not sure if a workman's comp insurance claim settlement is right for you? Trust in the expert advice of Minnesota Comp Advisor. Contact us today.
Lawsuits related to employer responsibility regarding mobile phone use are on the rise. Are your workplace injury prevention procedures reflecting this ever-growing risk? Though smartphones have made it easier for employees to stay connected, they also pose serious safety and financial risks, with hands-free laws doing little to offer protection from liability to employers.
Is my business liable?
There have been many large settlements against companies involving lawsuits in which employees injured or killed someone while talking on a cell phone. Why not sue the employee? Because businesses typically have deeper pockets.
If your employees are driving company-owned vehicles during business or are making business-related calls (or texts) at the time of an accident – your business could be held liable.
But I don’t issue cell phones….
The issuance of cell phones is not of significance. If your company’s employees do any business by phone, including reporting to you, your company needs a cell phone policy to protect your business, employees, and those individuals they might meet by accident on the road.
Can I protect my business?
Implementing a mobile phone and general vehicle use policy is the first step toward reducing liability. Although these won’t eliminate your business’ liability, it does show forethought on your part in attempting to prevent these risks through employee education.
Cell phone policies need not be overly lengthy or obtuse, simply advise employees of all cell phone laws affecting areas in which they travel or do business, and offer procedural guidance for the protection of all parties.
Is your business thinking outside the box when it comes to workplace injury prevention? Minnesota Comp Advisor can help. Contact us today.
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