Saturday May 28, 2022

L&I Claims Court Decision Drives Changes to Stay at Work Program in Washington State

What is L&I’s Stay at Work program?

In short, the WA-SAW program helps employers avoid compensable claims. From my perspective, it is designed solely to offer savings measures to employers. However, it is a short-sighted program. In practical terms, it ignores several real-life challenges for work injury claimants. Also, it often causes more harm than good in the long run.

In my opinion, a major issue is that L&I exercises very little oversight of employers who take advantage of WA-SAW. Upon returning to work, many work injury clients face hostile work environments and excessive criticism for their job performance. Many work injury victims report difficulty maintaining treatment programs, resulting in setbacks in progress. However, these issues are largely overlooked. In fact, work injury claimants are often blamed and frequently penalized for various issues that arise. For example, when the employer blames the worker after a light job is not working. This situation may result in termination of time loss compensation benefits.

Make the program fairer for people with workers’ compensation claims

L&I recently announced changes to the WA-SAW program following a decision by the Court of Appeals. Previously, employers could request reimbursement beginning on the date they submitted a light duty description to the L&I claims physician for consideration. The Court of Appeals ruled that this was not appropriate. Employers can now only request reimbursement from the date the light duty is approved by the provider in charge.

Personally, I think this is a step in the right direction. However, it does not go far enough. For employers to be eligible for WA-SAW incentives, the work injury claimant must be: (a) limited and unable to perform their regular work due to conditions related to the claim, and (b) medically released to perform light duty by the treating physician. Both the light duty description and the assistant provider’s approval must be in writing.

personal perspective

When done the right way and for the right reasons, the WA-SAW program can benefit both employers and workers. But from my point of view, I often see cases where the employer wants to take advantage of WA-SAW by making a light duty offer. Employers often fail to take the necessary steps to make the offer valid.

The decision of the Court of Appeals is a good step. Helps ensure that employers who follow the rules and provide suitable job offers enjoy the benefits of WA-SAW. However, the program still needs a more worker-focused review to make it fair and as beneficial as possible to all parties.

This article was first published at

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