I previously posted about the investigative reporting by Susannah Frame at King 5 regarding the Office Careers retraining program. Yesterday, the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) publicly announced a moratorium on Office Careers retraining plans in L&I claims.
L&I retraining services put a hold on Office Careers
L&I published a news release and stated that: “Effective immediately, L&I is instituting a moratorium on approving any new retraining plans for Office Careers. This will remain in effect pending the results of our audit and/or the Workforce Board investigation. We will announce any changes to this process”.
In my experience, when L&I sends work injury claimants to ineffective retraining programs, it puts injured workers in a no-win situation. The person going through his or her L&I claim has to choose between:
(1) Participating in a program that’s not going to help their career;
(2) Reaching a workers’ compensation claim settlement for far less than appropriate; or
(3) Mounting an expensive legal battle to prove that L&I made a wrong decision.
Therefore, I’m thrilled that King 5 News brought this issue to light.
An opportunity for L&I vocational retraining
As a workers’ compensation attorney and L&I attorney representing people that were hurt at work, this chain of events gave me a lot to think about. My conclusion is that this is an opportunity for L&I to reform the culture surrounding vocational retraining in L&I claims. Currently, it appears that L&I places greater value on achieving determinations that injured workers are employable. Instead, I expect L&I to focus on having work injury claimants return to work successfully.
Someone saying that you’re employable is not the same as being employed. It’s also not the same as being able to maintain that employment successfully over time. If L&I wants to support a successful retraining program in L&I claims, then they must shift their culture.
They must place a greater value on retraining plans that actually make injured workers employable.
What’s a successful L&I claim outcome?
I’ve been thinking about this time and time again. I honestly don’t know how L&I defines a successful claim outcome. However, I suspect it includes a limited duration of disability and paying less money on an L&I claim. In my world, a successful outcome is one where an injured worker makes the best recovery possible. A successful outcome is one where a work injury client maintains a sense of financial security despite having sustained a life altering industrial injury or occupational disease.
L&I can do the right thing
An injured worker that’s abandoned, based upon an administrative decision that looks good on paper, is not a successful outcome. No matter how you look at it. I strongly encourage L&I to take this opportunity to do the right thing. Reform the culture. Celebrate truly successful claim outcomes. Stop incentivizing practices, behaviors, programs, policies, and a culture that does nothing but place injured workers in a no-win situation.