Laid off with permanent limitations?
It feels like not a week goes by when the news announces another round of lay offs at a Wisconsin employer. A recent article stated: Briggs & Stratton to layoff roughly 160 workers.
Many of these workers might be eligible for worker’s compensation benefits if their claims are still open. Oftentimes, an employer brings a worker back to work after the work injury, even if the worker has permanent limitations. Employers can attempt to accommodate the worker’s permanent limitations in their old or in a new position. Under the worker’s compensation law, a worker does not have a loss of earning capacity claim if the return to their time-of-injury employer making 85% or more of the wages they were making before they got hurt.
Of course, if that injured worker with limitations ultimately gets a lay off notice, they are no longer earning those accommodated wages…and they can pursue other vocational benefits under the work comp law.
Loss of Earning Capacity or Retraining
If a worker with permanent limitations gets laid off they can look into vocational retraining. If the injured worker is motivated to return to school, they can ask the work comp insurance company to pay for tuition, books, weekly wages (2/3 of earnings), meals, and mileage to/from school. Retraining is a way for the worker to learn a new skill to get back to the wages they use to enjoy.
More importantly, for certain types of injuries (Back, Neck, Head, Psychological) a laid off worker with permanent limitations can pursue a loss of earning capacity claim. A vocational expert can compare what the worker was able to make before the injury and compare it to the types of jobs the worker can find with their permanent limitations. Often the employer who was accommodating the limitations was able to pay the worker much more than they could make in the open labor market with limitations. Thus, the newly laid off worker may have difficulty finding work at similar earnings. A loss of earning capacity equals compensation for that loss.
A laid off injured worker with permanent limitations should talk to an attorney right away. Claims are open for 6 years from the date of injury (or last work comp payment), or 12 years for occupational exposure claims (repetitive job duties).