Michigan Amends Its Workers’ Disability Compensation Act
On Dec. 19, 2011, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law a bill to reform the Michigan Workers’ Disability Compensation Act. This bill, which was supported by Michigan’s Chamber of Commerce and other pro-employer groups, is designed to improve Michigan’s worker’s compensation system by codifying several favorable decisions from the Michigan Supreme Court, and by closing certain loopholes in the system which had increased costs to employers.
The bill includes the following changes to the current worker’s compensation system:
- Employees must show that their injuries are “medically distinguishable” from their pre-existing conditions to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, namely, that work causes a pathology that is medically distinguishable from a pathology that existed prior to the injury.
- Codification of case law requiring an employee claiming a mental disability to prove that the mental disability arose out of actual events of employment, and that the employee’s perception of the actual events is reasonably grounded in fact;
- Places an affirmative duty on injured workers to seek reasonably available work;
- Increases from 10 days to 28 days the initial period during which the employer may direct the injured employee’s medical care;
- If the employee is terminated from reasonable employment for the fault of the employee, the employee is considered to have voluntarily removed himself or herself from the work force and is not entitled to any wage loss benefits;
- If the employee is partially disabled—meaning that the employee is able to work, but only at a lower wage than before the injury—then the employee’s wage loss benefits will be reduced based on the wage the employee is capable of earning; and
- The parties to a redemption agreement may stipulate to certain determinations in writing, eliminating the need for redemption hearings in certain situations.
Now that Governor Snyder has signed the law, the law will immediately apply to claims arising from injuries that occur after Dec. 19, 2011.