University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Early Return to Work
Policy and Procedures

Policy and Procedures regarding the Early Return to Work of UWM Employees who have sustained Work-Related Injuries/Illnesses.

I. Policy: The health and well-being of all employees is of great importance to UW-Milwaukee. It is well documented that injuries affect the whole person and that effective rehabilitation and treatment must address the whole person. Part of that treatment includes keeping physically and mentally active within the rest rictions of the particular injury. UWM will make every effort to help employees to maximize their healing and facilitate their early return to work.

Consistent with the general intent of Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 102 (Worker's Compensation), the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (hereinafter UWM) will make every reasonable effort to return to the workplace those permanent employees of UWM who have s ustained job-related injuries or illnesses, and as a result are temporarily or permanently prevented from returning to their full former employment. At the discretion of the employing unit, Limited Term Employees and student employees may be returned to work early and given light duty assignments, but such assignments will be limited only to the duration of the employee's LTE or student help appointments.

For injuries or illnesses that occur off the job, UWM's medical leave and leave of absence policies apply. If the injury or illness constitutes a disability, campus policies regarding reasonable accommodations may apply. Employees must contact their supervisors regarding the need for such an accommodation. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator is available for general information and assistance to the schools/colleges/divisions and departments in making determinations on accommodations.

II. Practice: The Worker's Compensation Office has the responsibility for the administration of claims for medical and disability benefits to employees who are injured on the job and the coordination of the early return-to-work program, including light duty or alternate duty assignments. The WC Office will work in close cooperation with the dean/division head (or designee).

So as to return permanent employees to the workplace, the employer will make every reasonable effort to place returning employees in existing positions which are the same as or equivalent to those held prior to the illness or injury. (NOTE: The employer however is under no affirmative obligation to create a position solely for this purpose). First priority for such placement will be within the employee's department. Second priority will be for placement within the employing school/college/division. Th ird priority will be for placement in another employing unit within UWM. Fourth priority will be for consideration of or assistance in placement within other campuses of the UW-System or other state agencies.

The employee will be advised by the supervisor of the alternate duty chosen and will be assigned such duty for a period normally not to exceed 90 days per injury. At the 90-day limit, an assessment by the case management team is required. It shall be the policy of UWM generally not to allow overtime status to individuals working under this program; however, it shall be at the employing unit's discretion as to whether the employee's restrictions permit overtime work.. The employee will be informed of her/his continued responsibility to follow the policies and procedures of the faculty, academic staff, or classified service, as appropriate.

While implementation of this policy is the ultimate responsibility of the school/college/division, it will require cooperation among schools/colleges/divisions and between the employer and the employee. It will be the responsibility of the Worker's Comp ensation Office to articulate the employer's obligations under the Worker's Compensation laws. Other offices may be consulted, including Classified Employment Services, the UWM Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Diversity/Compliance, Legal Affairs, the A ssistant Vice Chancellor-Personnel, and the Office of Labor Relations in the Department of Human Resources. III. Procedure: The initial consideration for returning an employee to work will be made by the original department. In most cases, the employee's own department should be able to find a suitable fit. However, where the original employing department cannot make a suitable fit or cannot return the employee to work, a case manage ment team made up of people on and off campus will play a role in helping injured employees during the healing process. The UW-Milwaukee case management team will consist of the following members, with their respective duties:

Injured Employee
  • Reports injury immediately to supervisor;
  • Completes all needed paperwork as soon as possible;
  • Follows campus rules and practices;
  • Maintains contact with supervisor;
  • Provides regular updates, at least weekly, with medical reports on health condition and treatment to worker's compensation coordinator;
  • Returns to offered modified duty (if any) which is within medical restrictions (if any) as set by the treating physician.
Supervisor/Department Designee
  • Initiates immediate medical treatment for injured employee when necessary;
  • Conducts investigation and corrects hazard;
  • Reports the injury and completes all needed paperwork as soon as possible;
  • Informs employees of campus work rules and practices;
  • Maintains contact with the injured worker and the worker's compensation coordinator;
  • When appropriate, finds or develops modified work for employee, within medical restrictions;
  • Identifies and offers modified duty assignment to the injured employee.
Worker's Compensation Coordinator
  • Facilitates all case management activities;
  • Reviews all forms for full completion by correct persons;
  • Informs the injured worker of benefit options, rights, and responsibilities;
  • Initiates and maintains contact with medical personnel for procurement of medical information and supplying job descriptions as needed;
  • Calculates benefits for injured employee;
  • Maintains contact with the injured employee;
  • Maintains contact with the UW System Office of Safety and Loss Prevention;
  • Coordinates activities on campus with outside investigation and rehabilitation professionals;
  • Assists in the development of modified duty assignments;
  • Maintains injury records and history.
Director of Environmental Health & Safety/Risk Management
  • Investigates the scene of accidents and reviews accident with injured employee and supervisor when appropriate;
  • Makes safety recommendations when necessary;
  • Assists in any additional investigation of claims;
  • Reviews injury data and analyzes to spot trends of injuries and accidents;
  • Develops and implements employee safety training programs;
  • Assists with the development of modified duty assignments;
  • Acts as liaison for all interested parties.
Campus Ergonomics Specialist /Team
  • Works with the injured employee and treating physician to ensure that the employee is receiving the appropriate treatment;
  • Helps the employee during the recovery period;
  • Meets with the supervisor to determine specific job tasks and suggest appropriate job modifications;
  • Concentrates on returning the employee to work activities that are based on physical limitations and transferrable skills;
  • Assists in planning safety training for the campus.
UW-System Office of Safety and Loss Prevention Claims Examiner
  • Holds responsibility for administering the claim, including all approvals and denials for payment;
  • Assists in strategies for handling claims;
  • Provides the campus with monthly, quarterly, and annual claims data;
  • Recommends and assigns rehabilitation nurses, consultants, and other outside support as needed;
  • Provides cost containment services including medical treatment utilization reviews, medical bill audits, and investigation services.
Following receipt by the employer of a physician's certification indicating that the employee may return to work, the employee's department shall examine alternatives. The certification may or may not suggest that restrictions be placed on the employee' s return and may or may not indicate whether the restrictions are temporary or permanent.

A. Upon receipt, the employee's supervisor and the employee's department chair or director will review the physician's certification to determine whether it indicates any restrictions. They will then assess how such restrictions are likely to impact the employee's ability to perform his or her duties. If a question exists as to such ability, the employee's department (with assistance from the Worker's Compensation Office and campus ergonomics team if needed) will communicate with the employee's physici an. This communication will include:

  1. a letter requesting the medical facts to support the doctor's certification of the employee's restrictions and a medical prognosis as to the duration such restrictions will apply;
  2. a copy of the employee's Position Description;
  3. a statement indicating the extent of physical and/or emotional demands normally encountered by this or other similarly situated employees in the performance of their work, such as bending, lifting, climbing stairs, pushing, pulling, walking, handling of heavy items, deadline demands, high-volume public cont act, etc.
The employer reserves the right to obtain a second medical opinion on the employee's condition at the employer's expense.

B. Upon receipt of any additional information regarding the restrictions from the employee's and/or the employer's physician, the employee's supervisor and department chair or director will determine whether the employee can:
  1. return to a full work load and schedule without modification of duties;
  2. return to a full work load and schedule with temporary (90 days or less) or permanent modification of duties;
  3. return to work at a less-than-full schedule temporarily, but without modification of duties;
  4. return to work at a less-than-full schedule temporarily, with temporary (90 days or less) or permanent modification of duties; or
  5. return to work in a different position for a limited period of time, not to exceed 90 days.
This analysis will be done with the assistance of the worker's compensation coordinator and the ergonomics team, if needed, and is necessary to determine whether an appropriate position is available. Any temporary change in schedule or duti es is to last for a period not to exceed 90 days. At the 90-day limit, an assessment by the case management team is required. The department chair/dean/division head (or designee) shall be informed of all temporary changes in duties.

C. If the employee's supervisor and department chair or director determine that modifications in hours or duties are necessary, it will then be determined whether the employee's job can be altered or whether a temporary or permanent reassignment can be made so to return the employee to work. Among others, consideration will be given to:
  1. the severity of the employee's condition and the extent to which his or her ability to work is impaired;
  2. whether the employee's condition is temporary or permanent, and if temporary, for what duration it is expected to continue;
  3. the extent to which regular job duties or hours may be temporarily or permanently altered to permit the employee to return;
  4. the impact of any alteration in hours or duties on the productivity, workload, or work environment of other employees;
  5. the availability of alternative work assignments.
If the employee's department decides to implement an accommodation, it must notify the Worker's Compensation Office of the nature of such accommodation. The Worker's Compensation Office will consult with Classified Employment Services regarding any classification or contract concerns. In finding or develo ping a modified duty position, the following should be considered:
  • Remember to take a positive approach and focus on what the employee can do rather than tasks s/he cannot perform.
  • Explain to the employee the benefits of modified duty, including: little or no loss in earning power; continued earnings of sick leave, vacation, and retirement; constant communication with supervisor and co-workers; feeling of being part of the team.
  • Modified duty should be a meaningful assignment, allowing injured employees to maintain their dignity.
  • The employee may be able to do the regular job with only some tasks removed because of medical restrictions.
  • The employee may be able to do tasks that have been put off because "no one has time" to do them, tasks that are not being done by others at the present time, or jobs that are being done only occasionally such as inventorying supplies, reviewing old f iles, organizing the library, updating plans, etc. Consider also tasks now being done which, if assigned to someone else temporarily, would free other employees to accomplish different work.
  • Ensure that employees and their co-workers fully understand that this is temporary work, and that the injured employee will be expected to return to her/his full job as soon as medically able. Encourage co-workers to build team spirit and welcome the injured employee back to work.
  • It is the policy of UWM generally not to allow overtime status to individuals working under this program; however, it shall be at the employing unit's discretion as to whether the employee's restrictions permit overtime work.
  • Review the assignment regularly, in cooperation with the ergonomic specialist/team and the treating physician, for continued appropriateness.
If accommodation cannot be made within the employee's department, the dean/division head (or designee) will check with other areas within the school/college/division for temporary or permanent placement of the employee. D. In the event that the school/college/division cannot accommodate the employee, it must notify the Director of the Department of Human Resources and submit written reasons for the determination. A review of the determination and of potential temporary assignments, both within and outside the department or employing school/college/division will be made by the Department of Human Resources with representatives of the school/college/division.

E. If a Classified Staff employee cannot return to his or her former employing division, Classified Employment Services will work with the employee in an attempt to place the employee in another position at UWM, or elsewhere within the University of Wisconsin System that is commensurate with the employee's restrictions and job skills. If an Unclassified Staff employee cannot return to his/her former employing unit, the Assistant Vice Chancellor-Personnel will work with potential employing units. At the discretion of the employing unit, Limited Term Employees and student employees may be returned to work early and given light duty assignments, but such assignments will be limited only to the duration of the LTE or student help appointments. The employee 's department will be responsible for the wage and benefit costs during the period of a temporary placement external to the department.

F. In the event an employee refuses an accommodation or reassignment to duties which are within the employee's restrictions and ability to perform, the employer is not obligated to provide alternatives. The employee may also be subject to a limitation or termination of any benefits for lost time being received under the Worker's Compensation program.

G. If, at the end of the healing period, permanent employees' restrictions prevent them from returning to the occupational area of their former employment, they will be assisted in finding other employment on campus, within their restrictions. Reasonable accommodations consistent with ADA guidelines must be made. The employee's department is encouraged to consult with other departments in the school/college/division in an attempt to secure a job placement for the injured employee. If a job placement is not secured, the dean/division head (or designee) will work w ith the Department of Human Resources for possible placement elsewhere within UWM. Failing that, employment elsewhere within the UW-System will be sought. If no other suitable employment can be found, the employee will be assisted in obtaining retraining through the state Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR). Upon request, employees will be assisted in applying for disability retirement under the applicable provisions of the regula tions of the Department of Employe Trust Funds (ETF). Coordination with these two agencies will be provided as necessary by the UWM Department of Human Resources.

H. All steps mentioned herein must be processed in a timely manner.

IV. Fiscal Responsibility

A. The salary and benefits of the injured employee will be the responsibility of the original employing unit until appropriate transfers have been made.

B. UWM receives an annual premium assessment for Worker's Compensation costs. This premium is based on both employee exposure and claims experience and is allocated to major divisions and auxiliary units. Thus there is an incentive for departments to reduce Worker's Compensation lost time payment costs.

November 1997