2021 WI Act 29: Changes to Workers’ Comp Approved
On Tuesday April 27, 2021, Governor Tony Evers signed 2021 Wisconsin Act 29 into law. This law makes several changes to Wisconsin workers’ compensation law. Here is an overview of those changes.
Liability for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for Public Safety Officers under WI Act 29
Existing law provided that employers are liable for accidents or diseases of its employees if the accident or disease causing injury arose from their employment. In the case of mental injuries, the mental injury must result “from a situation of greater dimensions than the day-to-day emotional strain and tension which all employees must experience” in order to be compensable.
Wisconsin Act 29 alters the conditions of liability for workers’ compensation benefits for certain public safety employees. In particular, for law enforcement officers or a fire fighters who are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) the law eliminates the “greater dimensions” requirement for coverage of a Public Safety Officer’s work-related PTSD diagnosis.
The law provides that a public safety officer who is diagnosed with PTSD by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist may assert a claim for workers’ compensation benefits if the conditions of liability are proven by a preponderance of the evidence and the mental injury is not the result of a good-faith employment action by the employer. Public safety employees are no longer required to demonstrate a diagnosis based on unusual stress of greater dimensions than the day-to-day emotional strain and tension experienced by similarly situated employees.
The law also limits liability for treatment of a compensable mental injury to no more than thirty-two (32) weeks after the injury is first reported. In addition, public safety officers are restricted to compensation for a mental injury that results in a diagnosis of PTSD three (3) times in his or her lifetime irrespective of a change of employer or employment.
In summary, the law provides the following in relation to PTSD workers’ compensation claims by public safety officials:
- The PTSD diagnosis must be made by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist for a mental injury;
- Injured public safety employees are not required to demonstrate a PTSD diagnosis based on unusual stress of greater dimensions than the day-to-day emotional strain and tension experienced by similarly situated employees;
- Treatment for a compensable PTSD diagnosis is limited to no more than thirty-two (32) weeks after the injury if first reported; and
- Public safety officers are restricted to mental injury due to PTSD compensation three (3) times in his or her lifetime.
Payments in cases of injuries resulting in death
Current law provides that an employer or insurer must pay into the work injury supplemental benefit fund (WISBF) the amount of death benefit payable in a case of a workplace injury resulting in death leaving no dependents or leaving one or more persons partially dependent for support. Payments must be made in five (5) equal annual installments.
Wisconsin Act 29 allows these payments to be made in advance of when they are otherwise due, including in a single lump-sum payment. If an employer or insurer makes an advance or lump sum payment, the law requires the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to give the employer or the insurer an interest credit computed as otherwise provided under existing law.
In the case of a violation of an employer policy against drug or alcohol use that is causal to an employee’s injury resulting in death, current law provides that neither the employee nor the employee’s dependents may receive any compensation under the workers’ compensation law for that injury, other than costs for treating the injury, but does not exempt the employer or insurer from the payment to WISBF.
This law provides that in the case of a violation of an employer policy against drug or alcohol use that is causal to an employee’s injury resulting in death who leaves no person dependent for support or leaving one or more persons partially dependent for support, no payment is required to be made to WISBF.
Furnishing of billing statements
The law requires a health care provider to furnish to the representative or agent of a workers’ compensation insurer a complete itemized billing statement for treatment of an injury for which an employee claims compensation within 30 days after receiving a request.
Coverage liability for leased employees
Under existing law, employee-leasing companies were generally liable for injuries to their leased employees under the workers’ compensation law.
Wisconsin Act 29 provides that a client of an employee leasing company may assume liability for leased employees under an employee leasing agreement. The law also provides that if a client terminates or otherwise does not provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage for the leased employees, the employee leasing company is liable for injuries to those leased employees under the workers’ compensation law.
Statute of Limitations Under WI Act 29
This law clarifies that for workers’ compensation claims the statute of limitations also applies to an individual’s employer, the employer’s insurance company, and any other named party.
Wisconsin Act 29 provides a number of updates to existing workers’ compensation law, especially for employers who employ public safety officers. Employers would be well-served to review this Act with their legal counsel and/or workers’ compensation experts to identify updates to their policies and procedures.