Why we tell you – “Never fire an employee with an L&I claim”

Did some challenging disciplinary situations come to mind while reading our 7 HR Best Practices last week? Or, have you ever had disciplinary issues surrounding an L&I claim?
Well, imagine this:

  • Your employee broke several important safety policies and injured herself in the process. Now you have an L&I claim AND a major discipline problem on your hands.

OR

  • Maybe your injured worker failed the post-accident drug screen, causing immediate termination, per company policy.

OR

  • How about this one: after 1 week of no show, no call while on light duty, you’re ready to terminate the injured worker due to job abandonment.

Any of these scenarios could bring the words “You’re Fired!” quickly to mind. Justifiably so, if these examples were not in the context of L&I claims.

The reality is that time-loss benefits have been paid to workers following each of these examples. Time-loss is payable to eligible injured workers even if they’ve been terminated for cause!

Termination with an open claim can cost your company!!

The relief you get from firing your employee will be short-lived. The consequences can cost your company for years to come. Here are some of the risks of firing when Best Practices are not followed:

  • L&I pays time loss, which goes against your employer account and raises your rates.
  • Kept on Salary (KOS) may still be required by your retro group.
  • You’ll open your company to wrongful termination or workers compensation retaliation legal action. Think about the legal fees you’ll rack up to fight and win these cases.
  • Time-loss protests to L&I are also time-consuming and expensive to fight and win
  • Finally, termination makes it harder to offer valid light duty work in the future — taking away what’s usually your best option to control costs of workers’ comp claims

Bottom line – when a claim is involved, there’s a big chance a worker that you’ve fired can cost thousands of dollars, even after they’re gone!

How Could This Be?

As far as your L&I claim manager is concerned, unless valid light duty paperwork is on file, time-loss is payable if the doctor’s note keeps the worker off work or on work restriction. Their playbook doesn’t consider terminations as a basis to prevent time-loss. Nor is the claim manager going to mediate “he said, she said” situations that arise from verbal warnings and terminations.

If we can’t fire, then what?!?

Luckily, there’s another way. First, put our 7 HR Best Practices into place. With good documentation that these practices are followed for all employees, your Approach retro coordinator can help you demonstrate to L&I that time-loss or KOS are not appropriate when an injured employee also violates company policy. We can also help you ensure that light-duty job offers are coordinated properly and in a way that allows the disciplinary policy to be enacted after the claim. Let your retro coordinator know of any disciplinary concerns surrounding a claim so that we can consider the widest array of options.