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Employers Would Need To Help Find Jobs For Injured Under Bill

Employers Would Need To Help Find Jobs For Injured Under Bill

Employers would need to do more to connect recently injured workers with in-house jobs they could still perform, under legislation introduced this week by Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) and co-sponsored by 14 other Senate Democrats.

 

Under SB 0368, injured workers wouldn't be required to find alternative work entirely on their own after an injury in order to receive workers compensation. Employers would be obligated to find the employee alternate work as part of the "good-faith" effort employees are required to take to find another job.

"Michigan's workers' compensation system is unjust and often fails those who experience a work-related injury," Ananich said. "Right now, workers often find themselves scrambling to find a new job immediately after their injury, or struggle with navigating the complicated bureaucracy of the current workers' compensation structure. These are unfair and unnecessary hurdles to place in front of folks who are just trying to recover."

SB 0368 reads that a good-faith job search means:

- The employee is still working where the injury occurred and the employee has tried unsuccessfully to obtain other jobs with that employer;

- The employee applies for at least two jobs per week (this is consistent with Unemployment Insurance Agency requirements); or,

- The employee is working full-time in reasonable employment.

The bill would also excuse an employee from searching for work if they are disabled or if searching for a job poses a threat to their safety and health.

According to Ananich, his legislation would be a "necessary fix for Michigan workers due to Republican-driven changes made to Michigan's Worker's Compensation law with enactment of Public Act 266 of 2011. Ananich argues that P.A. 266 removed the requirement of employers to offer reasonable alternative jobs to injured workers, and instead saddled workers with the responsibility of searching for employment entirely on their own.

"Michigan has the best workforce in the world, so when employees get hurt on the job, we should be doing everything we can to make the compensation system work for them, not against them, and that's what my bill does," Ananich asserted.

Michigan Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Business Advocacy Wendy Block, told MIRS that the Chamber opposes SB 0368.

"One of the overriding goals of the workers' compensation system is to help individuals return to work after they experience a work-related injury," Block said. "In some cases, an individual may not be able to return to the job they were injured performing, but may be able to perform a different type of work. Legislation passed in 2011 added an affirmative duty for individuals to seek work within their restrictions. We support current law because it is beneficial to employers and employees alike."

Charles Owens, director of the National Federation of Independent Business-Michigan, said that Public Act 266 or 2011 was passed and enacted for good reasons.

"Before it became P.A. 266, it was HB 5002," Owens said. "And prior to HB 5002 being passed and signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder, the trial lawyers had been doing a lot of lawyering on the Michigan workers' compensation system. In fact, it had reached the point where the law was all over the place, depending on the whims of the courts' or magistrates' opinions.

"In addition to countering that situation, HB 5002 also modernized the system. For instance, the old law was written prior to many medical advances, such a knee replacements. So, in some cases what used to be lifetime injuries no longer are.

"Generally, if proposed legislation is aimed at narrowing down a part of the worker's' compensation law for clarification, NFIB might be interested in that discussion," Owens continued. "But if it's an attempt to repeal or open up the Act -- that's not something we'd be likely to support."

SB 0368 has been referred to the Senate Government Operations Committee, where it is expected to die.

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