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Oct 2011
12
October 12, 2011

Worker’s Compensation Bill Has Unions Pushing Back


House Bill 5002, which purposes significant changes in Michigan's worker's compensation system, was on the House Commerce Committee agenda this week. The legislation, in its current form, offers amendments welcomed by many employers but opposed by unions. Among the proposed changes:
 
  • Specifies that “wage loss” refers to the amount of wages lost due to disability resulting from the work-related injury.
  • “Wage earning capacity” is defined as the wages the claimant earns or is capable of earning, whether or not actually earned.
  • Changes the “100 week rule,” which currently allows a claimant who has been on light-duty work for fewer than 100 weeks and loses his or her job for whatever reason to receive compensation based on his or her wage as of the original date of injury. Under the amended statute, a claimant is no longer entitled to benefits if terminated from reasonable employment due to the fault of the employee.
  • Assesses attorney fees related to medical expenses to either the claimant or the medical provider, or both, but not the employer or carrier.
  • Expands the coordination of qualifying employer funded pension or retirement benefits from payments which the employee received or is receiving to payments he or she is eligible to receive.
  • Requires consideration of the effects of joint replacement surgery, and other medical procedures, in determining whether a loss of use of a limb (such as loss of use of a leg with a total knee replacement) has occurred.
  • Changes the rate of interest paid pursuant to an award of a worker’s compensation magistrate, an arbitrator, the board, the appellate commission or a court, from 10 percent per annum to a calculation performed in the same manner as provided for a money judgment in a civil action under Section 6013 (8) of the Revised Judicature Act. This means the interest rate would be determined at six-month intervals at a rate of interest equal to 1 percent plus the average interest rate paid at auctions of five-year United States treasury notes during the six months immediately preceding July 1 and January 1, as certified by the state treasurer, and compounded annually.

House Bill 5002 is likely to undergo changes prior to moving out of the committee. Almost certainly additional revisions will occur before it is enacted into law. If you have questions regarding House Bill 5002 or any aspect of Michigan’s Worker’s Disability Compensation Act, please contact Geri Drozdowski (gdrozdowski@wnj.com or 616.752.2110) or any other member of Warner Norcross & Judd's Workers' Compensation or Labor & Employment Groups.

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