Work Comp Happens

Brian Beck PHR, MHROD
September 18, 2009 — 2,129 views  
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Okay HR people, most of us have had experience with the management of workers compensation claims.  I've had my share over the 15+ years I've been in the business.  In fact, my interest in HR began with managing both workers comp and SUI claims.  Being "HR raised" in the great state of California, I was taught to be suspicious with each claim filed.  My life has been threatened by a vicodin addict whose claim we denied, I've put people on surveillance who could "barely walk" only to find on video tape that they had enough strength in those limbs to assist with lifting a keg of beer over a fence, and I've even seen a videotape of a person purposely breaking her ankle by slamming it on the side of a sidewalk only to state that it was broken on the job.  Whew.....good times had by all!!  But, as I've aged in my profession, I've also seen legitimate injuries.  Now, what to do with those folks?  Teach your managers to respect, recognize and assist with the treatment.  Pull that off, and your injured workers will be back on the job sooner than you know.

I have worked with managers in past lives that treat injured workers with disrespect and constant chastising.  As HR professionals, it is part of our job to make sure that these managers, in fact all managers, get the necessary training on what exactly workers compensation is all about.  In addition, we should be teaching them about modified (light duty) work options/systems, how ADA issues can fall into this scheme, what the systems are, injury prevention strategies, etc.  But, the most important thing that managers need to know is the psychological impact a person being on workers comp or light duty can feel.  The legitimately injured worker, trying to heal and get back to work, will often feel a strong sense of not belonging to the team during this healing transition.  Perhaps when most of their job involved running around like crazy taking care of customers or patients, now with restrictions, they are more at ease healing, maybe even sitting down more often.  It all depends on the limitations that the doctor states they need to do in order to get better.  That is what it’s all about!.....getting better and back on the job. 

Now is the time, during this modified work activity within the same organization or department where they normally work, to really offer our support.  Even on injured reserve, most employees still want to contribute.  Use this, turn it into a positive.  Don’t allow slamming of feelings, distrust or suspiciousness fall into play.  Check in with these people often, ask how they are doing.  Offer to do what it takes to get them healed and back on the job.  If you have injured workers at home not on modified, stay in touch with them!  Don’t let workers compensation case managers do all of the work.  Engage these injured workers; show them that your organization cares.  Be a good listening post and a faster recovery time will ensue.


Brian Beck PHR, MHROD


Brian J. Beck, PHR, M.H.R.O.D., has worked in the human resources field for over 15 years, focusing on recruitment/retention, HR strategic planning, organization and leadership development.