Bellevue Medical Tech Company Goes to Bat for Injured Employee
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American worker will hold ten different jobs before the age of 40. For younger employees, that number is expected to grow to between 12 and 15 jobs.
As a rule, loyalty between employer and employee appears to be a thing of the past.
But, exceptions still exist. Take the recent case of an MRI technician who lost the ability to do her job after suffering an arm and wrist injury. Though her worker's compensation claim case was already closed, the Bellevue firm who employed her had it reopened to explore the potentials for hiring her permanently.
“They really cared about this employee,” says Stephanie Kavon, a vocational consultantwith Single Handed Consulting. “She wasn’t able to return to her original job of injury, so they found a temporary light duty role for her. They reopened the claim just so they could turn that into a permanent position.”
In the vocational claims world, such instances are still relatively rare. Kavon and her colleagues at Single Handed often need to educate employers about the benefits of retaining injured workers, even if it means modifying their role or, as in this case, finding another job for them altogether.
“It was pretty special that they understood the importance of returning people to work, not just for the employee but for the company’s sake,” she says. “Everyone benefits.”
Many employers are slower to realize the advantages of returning employees to work, not only for morale purposes but in terms of overall cost savings. Studies have shown that the longer an injured worker is away from their job, the less likely they are to return; expenses quickly start adding up that could have been avoided by taking a proactive approach and beginning the claims process early.
Those costs include time loss compensation for lost wages and medical fees plus other, less obvious factors. The longer an employee is away, the more likely that Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) rates will go up along with the company’s risk classification ratings.
Because L&I takes loss history into account when calculating workers’ compensation premiums, businesses benefit by keeping claims ‘medical only.’ Through the department’s Stay at Work program, employers can keep someone on the job and continue to pay them a salary instead of paying time-loss compensation to L&I for lost wages.
Even if an employee can no longer perform their original duties, it’s worth exploring ways to keep them in another capacity. Single Handed consultants can help employers design other options, including modifying the original job to accommodate an injury, looking at transferable skills that allow the employee to work in a different department within the same company, or retraining the worker for another role.
Failing that, it may be necessary to let an injured worker go. At that point, another set of expenses emerges, including:
New employee hiring costs, i.e. advertising, interviewing, and screening.
Training and management time spent onboarding a new employee.
Productivity loss. The average new employee takes one to two years to achieve the same productivity level as an existing one.
Cultural Impact. When an employee is injured, other staff pay attention to how the company handles the issue.
In this case, the company did everything right, beginning with the necessary documentation and consultation with the employee’s medical team. The next step was an ergonomic evaluation to determine if she’d be physically capable of fulfilling the demands of her new role in the long term.
“Her job of injury as an MRI tech was much more hands-on and dealt with a lot of technology,” says Kavon. “Now she has a position as a scheduler, which is much more sedentary. The employer was able to provide all the accommodations she needed."
Both sides are satisfied with the outcome, despite a pay decrease for the injured worker. “The employee accepted the new position even though it pays less,” says Kavon. “She’s quite happy to have a role. The employer really went to bat for her in reopening this case.”
Throughout the process, communication was vital. Kavon played a key role, coordinating with both parties and keeping L&I abreast of the situation. She’s impressed with how the everyone involved contributed to the eventual outcome. “They set an example for teamwork,” she says. “Everyone was always in communication, wanting to meet goals for both worker and employer.”