Big win for Approach clients brings a big change to Stay-at-Work reimbursements

Stay-at-Work reimbursements may now be paid out from the day the injured employee is released to light-duty and returns to work. That’s the decision a panel of three court of appeals judges rendered on behalf of several Approach clients in a dispute with the Department of Labor and Industries. All Washington state employers stand to benefit as a result of this victory!

Stay At Work from Day One

The court was asked to consider three related cases, in which employers had requested retroactive approval of light-duty wage reimbursement back to the day on which the Activity Prescription Form (APF) outlined the initial work restrictions. Until now, employers have only been eligible for Stay-at-Work wage reimbursements from the day that the light-duty job description was transmitted to the medical provider for approval.

The judges wrote that their job with these cases was to determine “legislative intent.” In other words, they would decide the cases based on evidence of what the legislature was trying to accomplish when they created the Stay-at-Work program.

What they determined is that the legislature would not want an injured employee sitting at home waiting for paperwork while the employer has a suitable light-duty job available. This decision shows that the law is in favor of injured employees taking a light-duty assignment as soon as the employer has work that accommodates the restrictions outlined on the APF. The paperwork is important but shouldn’t delay light-duty work or preclude wage reimbursements from being issued.

“Until now, the process had been unnecessarily keeping injured employees off the job while denying wage reimbursements to employers trying to do the right thing,” says Jamie Graham, vice president, claims, for Approach, continuing, “we are thrilled that our employers prevailed, which will help thousands of other employers keep their injured employees working.”

What’s changing with Stay-at-Work

With this outcome, you can now bring your injured employee back to light-duty work as soon as you have the APF. As long as the work is within the restrictions outlined on the APF, wage reimbursement eligibility will also start at this time. You should still submit the job description to the medical provider for approval, but that no longer decides the starting date for Stay-at-Work wage reimbursement.

This decision was issued in February 2020 and could be appealed to the state Supreme Court by the Department of Labor & Industries, so check with your Retro Coordinator or our Stay-At-Work specialist for the latest information available.

Congratulations to our clients and our legal counsel, Holmes Weddle & Barcott, on this important win!