If an injured worker cannot physically return to their job prior to the injury in Washington State, he or she can be retrained. I feel very conflict about retraining injured workers because, in my opinion, some of the cases we see are unrealistic.
Retraining has a cost cap and cannot take more than two years. We see good loyal workers with lifelong heavy labor work histories, relegated to desk jobs. While still grieving over the loss of a career and collapse of retirement dreams, they are enthusiastically presented with retraining plans for basic “clerical work”. Introduction to computers, basic keyboard typing, phone etiquette, intro to Microsoft software products, and so on.
The goal is entry level, minimum wage, clerical or office work. When the worker voices concerns or doubts, they are frequently brushed off and ignored. This week one client started a plan and failed, and was being presented with a new skeleton plan. The new plan includes terms of repeated classes on the assumption he would fail the first time around. Another client’s plan included one handed basic keyboarding. Does the term “hunt and peck” sound familiar?
I am supportive of retraining, but I cannot ignore the legitimate frustrations and fears my clients express. There must be a better solution. I am very grateful to live in a state that cares about its employees and labor force. However, I know I am not the only person feeling this conflict in the retraining process. These are people’s lives we are talking about. They cannot be taken lightly. How do we work together and find a better solution?