Workers compensation fix bill passes Senate committee

A bill to offset temporary total disability benefits for light duty work and encourage employees to get back to work after an injury passed the Senate Economic Development Committee Tuesday.

When an employee is injured while at work, Kentucky law provides a mechanism for wage replacement, temporary total disability (TTD), while the injured worker heals. TTD is owed to an employee who has not reached maximum medical improvement or has not reached a level of improvement that would permit a return to work.

In some situations, an injured worker may be released by his/her physician to return to their employment to perform light duty work. The injured worker may still be entitled to TTD in these situations if they have not yet reached maximum medical improvement, however, they will also likely earn concurrent wages from their employer.

Senate Bill 151 sponsor Sen. Steve West pointed to a Supreme Court case in Kentucky where an employer was made to pay temporary total disability payments despite paying the full salary of an employee who returned to work on light duty.

West said this court decision points out a flaw in the state’s current laws that should be fixed to ensure fairness in that an injured worker does not receive a double recovery when they return to work.

“If not passed, this case will give an incentive to the employer to not provide light duty work to an employee. If they have to pay double, it will be an incentive not to provide light duty work,” West said.

Kentucky Chamber Acting Vice President of Public Affairs Ashli Watts also testified in favor of the bill, noting the need to pass the legislation in order to protect employers and workers.

“It is the goal of the Workers’ Compensation Act to return employees to work, that is critical. Allowing a credit against TTD for wages paid by the employer while the employee is working light duty incentivizes a return to work by the employee and also incentivizes employers for having a light duty back to work program,” Watts said. “This is critical because research has shown that workers who do not return very quickly are unlikely to return later.”

JD Chaney of the Kentucky League of Cities told the committee that the issue is at the top of the list of issues for the communities he represents and they feel the bill is a common sense solution to fixing this problem.

“They concluded the opinion by saying that public policy debate appropriately lies in this body’s hands, the General Assembly, and that’s exactly what Senator West’s bill does. It is a really simple and logical solution that says if an employee chooses, if they choose, to return to work in a light duty position fashioned by the employer before they meet maximum medical improvement, that any wages earned would be offset against their TTD benefits,” Chaney explained.

Hear testimony from West, Watts and Chaney in the video below:

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