The Senate Committee on Labor & Regulatory Reform has introduced this session’s Worker’s Compensation and Unemployment Insurance (UI) reform bills.
Each session, management and labor members of the Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council (WCAC) come to an agreement and introduce a bill on worker’s compensation reforms. The Senate Committee on Labor & Regulatory Reform has introduced this year’s bill as SB 673.
This session’s agreed-upon legislation includes moving worker’s compensation proceedings from the Department of Administration (DOA) Division of Hearings & Appeals back to the Department of Workforce Development (DWD). A previous session’s state budget moved those worker’s compensation positions to DOA. This session’s WCAC bill seeks to move the positions back to DWD. (Gov. Tony Evers proposed this move in his 2019-21 state budget, but the provision was removed as non-fiscal policy by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.)
Also notable in this session’s bill are changes to PTSD coverage for law enforcement employees. The bill would allow law enforcement officers to bring claims for worker’s compensation for PTSD if the conditions of liability are proven by a “preponderance of the evidence.” The bill would eliminate current requirements that law enforcement demonstrate that their PTSD is based on greater than the everyday emotional strain of their jobs. Under the bill, covered injuries cannot result from an act of good faith by the employer. These PTSD coverage provisions are identical to 2019 SB 511/AB 569 and represent a compromise among stakeholders from last session’s PTSD coverage bill.
Other provisions in the proposed 2019-20 WCAC bill include:
- Provisions related to employee leasing companies.
- Clarifying when an employer becomes subject to the worker’s compensation law.
- Clarifying that the worker’s compensation claim statute of limitations applies to employers, employers’ insurance companies, and any other named party.
Notably, this session’s legislation does not include a medical fee schedule. In previous sessions, inclusion of a medical fee schedule was part of what prevented the bill from moving forward in the Legislature.
This session’s unemployment insurance reform legislation has been split into two bills.
SB 671 includes:
- Changes the deadline for the DWD UI financial outlook report to May 31 of even-numbered years and changing deadlines and procedures for the update on the Council on UI.
- Changes benefits for employees whose employer cannot pay wages because a government unit fails to appropriate funds.
- Changes to the effect of criminal convictions in UI proceedings.
- Changes provisions related to nonprofit employers who elect reimbursement financing.
- Specifies that administrative law judge errors do not count as “departmental errors” allowing the recovery of benefits that were erroneously paid to an individual to be waived.
- Prohibits the Department of Revenue from entering into an agreement with DWD to collect owed UI amounts.
- Allows private agencies serving as fiscal agents for certain individuals receiving in-home care to be employers of the caregiver. Under current law, the individual receiving care must be the employer responsible for remitting UI contributions.
SB 672 makes fiscal changes to the UI statutes by:
- Creating a segregated fund for UI money that is not otherwise appropriated.
- Allowing DWD to use money other than federal money when the federal government refuses to reimburse DWD for UI benefits based on federal employment.
- Reorganizing, clarifying and updating UI appropriations and other outdated cross-references in the UI statutes.