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Employee Injury Sustained on 'Holiday Trip' Covered by Workers' Compensation
By: Vaughn Burkholder

Are injuries that one of your employees sustains as the result of a “holiday trip” covered by Kansas workers’ comp laws? They are when the “trip” in question happens in the workplace. Confused? Read on. 

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the plant ...

It’s Christmas Eve. Your plant is shut down for the holidays. One of your employees -- let’s call her Virginia -- has waited until the last minute to do her holiday shopping. Even though the plant is closed to the general public, your employees have been told that they can pick up their final paycheck for the year on December 24 or wait until the plant reopens on the 27th.
Virginia needs money to do her shopping, so she goes to the plant to get her check. Unfortunately for her, as she’s leaving her manager’s office, she trips over a scale, falls, and injures herself severely. Is she entitled to make a workers’ comp claim for that “holiday trip‘?
Getting Grinchy
No way that could really happen, right? Wrong, Reindeer Breath! This exact situation was the subject of a Kansas Court of Appeals ruling.
Did the court find this “mistletoe mishap” covered by workers’ comp? Well, you think, for an employee’s injury to be covered by workers’ comp, it must “arise out of and in the course of” her employment. Virginia wasn’t working when she was injured, was she? And your plant wasn’t really even open, was it? Therefore, you merrily conclude, her claim obviously isn’t covered. Wrong again, Elf      Continue Reading...
Drunk employee who fell through roof still gets workers’ comp
By: Boyd Byers

After throwing back a few beers on a Sunday morning, an employee was instructed to repair the roof of a building. While he was on the roof, a swarm of ants attacked him, and he fell through the roof as he tried to brush them off. Although the employee’s blood alcohol level was over .09 percent at the time of the accident and he tested positive for marijuana and cocaine, the Kansas Court of Appeals held that the Workers’ Compensation Board was justified in awarding him workers’ comp benefits. The employer failed to show the employee’s intoxication “contributed to” his injury (a defense to workers comp liability) because a sober person could just as easily have fallen through the roof in the same circumstances. The case is Gideon v. Yost Properties.

KDOL Seeks Employer Input on Work Comp Report
By: Boyd Byers

The Kansas Department of Labor wants employers to let the agency know which sections of the Workers Compensation Annual Statistical Report they find most helpful.  The Report contains basic information about the Workers Compensation Division, workplace injury data, and claims statistics.  An interesting trend is that while the number of workplace injuries has been steadily decreasing (down 40% since 1998), the average cost per claim has been rising rapidly (over 70% increase from 2004 to 2010).  Click here to see the KDOL 2011 Workers Compensation Annual Statistical Report (1.7 MB).

The survey takes only a few minutes to complete.  Responses are due by May 11, 2012.  Click here to take the survey.

KDOL To Hold Workers Comp Seminar
By: Boyd Byers

The original Kansas Workers' Compensation Act was enacted in 1911.  The Act's centennial saw many changes, as it underwent a major overhaul this year.  (Click here)

These amendments and other new happenings in the world of Kansas workers comp will be the focus of the Kansas Department of Labor's 37th Annual Workers' Compensation Seminar.  The two-day seminar will be held on October 4 and 5, 2011, at the Overland Park Convention Center.  For complete details and registration, go to http://www.dol.ks.gov/seminar/seminar.aspx.

Workers Comp Reform Redux
By: Boyd Byers

We previously published a summary of the most-significant changes in the law brought about by the Kansas Workers Compensation Reform Act.  For those of you who want to know more details, but are not depraved enough to attempt to read the Act itself (don't be ashamed--I repeatedly tried to read War and Peace but never made it past page six), we offer a more-comprehensive summary prepared by the Kansas Legislative Research Department.  Click here.         

KDOL Updates Work Comp Poster
By: Boyd Byers

We previously gave you the skinny on the Kansas Workers Compensation Reform Act, which went into effect May 15, 2011.  (Read more here.)  The Kansas Department of Labor has since updated its “posting” notice, which the Department’s regulations require all employers covered by state workers compensation laws to post in their workplaces.  The new bi-lingual form (Form K-WC 40 (Rev. 5/11)), which tells employees what to do if an injury occurs on the job, is available for free on the Department’s website here.  Adhering to the regulations’ posting requirement may help employers defeat untimely workers compensation claims.

Kansas employers should also be aware that the KDOL is in the process of updating its workers compensation “Practice and Procedure Guide” to reflect all the changes in the Reform Act.  Stay tuned to Kansas Employment Law Blog; we’ll let you know when this resource becomes available.
Governor Signs Workers Comp Reform Law
By: Boyd Byers

Yesterday Governor Brownback signed into law the Kansas Workers Compensation Reform Act.  This law, which will take effect on May 15, 2011, marks the most-significant overhaul of the Kansas workers comp system since 1993. 

The new law, which has, as they say, a little something for everyone, is the product of negotiations between labor and business interests.  Both the Kansas AFL-CIO and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce supported the bill, and both the Senate and House passed it unanimously.  
So what are the major changes that have everyone so giddy?  As Governor Brownback put it, the new law is intended to provide “higher benefits for people with significant, legitimate claims,” while resulting in “less frivolous claims within this system." 
Higher Benefit Caps.  The new law increases the maximum benefits payable for disabling injuries.  For example, the cap on permanent partial disability was raised from $100,000 to $130,000, the cap on permanent total disability went from $125,000 to $155,000, and the death benefit cap increased from $250,000 to $300,000. 
Bilateral Injuries.  The new law clarifies that “bilateral injuries” (shoulder, arm, or hand combined with other shoulder, arm, or hand; or leg or foot combined with other leg or foot) are treated as a "general bodily injuries," rather than two “scheduled” injuries.  General bodily injuries typically result in higher disability awards than two separate injuries to the affected limbs.  This provision reverses a recent ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court. 
Restrictions on Compensable Injuries.       Continue Reading...
No Fooling--Work Comp Bill Goes to Governor
By: Boyd Byers

Today the Kansas House passed the revised version of HB 2134, the work comp bill we've been covering.  The bill now awaits action by Governor Brownback.  (The bill is summarized in our March 24 post.) 

Kansas Senate Approves Work Comp Bill
By: Boyd Byers

This week the Kansas Senate approved House Bill 2134, which includes numerous amendments and additions to the Kansas Workers Compensation Act.  After narrowly approving two amendments to the version of the bill previously approved by the House, the Senate passed the substitute bill by a unanimous 39-0 vote.   

Among the changes in this new-and-improved version of the bill (the tenth version) are: (1) redefining several existing terms and defining new terms; (2) specifying circumstances for disallowing compensation benefits; (3) requiring uniform deadlines for an injured employee to give notice to the employer; (4) revising drug testing standards; (5) shortening the time a case can stay open without a hearing from five to three years; (6) reducing compensation in cases involving proof of pre-existing conditions; (7) requiring expert evidence to prove permanent total disability; (8) redefining benefits available for temporary total disability; (9) revising calculations for compensating bilateral injuries and determining "average wages"; (10) increasing the maximum compensation for four different categories of disability; (11) reducing compensation benefits when the employee accepts retirement benefits from the same employer; (12) reducing an employer’s responsibility to provide medical and health care services in specified circumstances; (13) expanding who is eligible to access the appeals process involving future medical treatment; (14) expanding the use of the WC Fund when an employer has insufficient coverage; (15) mandating insurers and self-insured employers to issue warning notices in certain circumstances; (16) revising the appointment process for the WC Board; (17) allowing employers or insurance carriers to request a post-award hearing for medical treatment; and (18) permitting administrative hearings to be by      Continue Reading...

Kansas House Passes Work Comp Bill
By: Boyd Byers

"I'm just a bill, yes I'm only a bill . . . ."  -- Bill, from Schoolhouse Rock

Kansas lawmakers are considering a bill that would revise the Kansas Workers' Compensation Act in numerous ways.  Highly summarized, House Bill 2134 would: (1) redefine several existing terms and define four new terms, including "prevailing factor," "repetitive trauma," "task loss," and "wage loss;" (2) specify circumstances for disallowance of compensation benefits; (3) extend the period of time an employee has to give notice of injury; (4) revise drug testing standards; (5) shorten, from five to three years, the time a case can stay open without a hearing; (6) reduce compensation in cases involving proof of pre-existing conditions; (7) require expert evidence to prove permanent total disability; (8) redefine benefits available for temporary total disability; (9) revise calculations for compensating bilateral injuries and determining "average wages;" (10) increase the maximum compensation for four different categories of disability; (11) reduce compensation benefits when the employee accepts retirement benefits from the same employer; (12) reduce an employer’s responsibility to provide medical and health care services in specified circumstances; (13) expand who is eligible to access the appeals process involving future medical treatment; (14) expand the use of the workers' compensation fund when an employer has insufficient coverage; (15) restrict coverage for illegal immigrants; and (16) abolish the Workforce Advisory Council.  The bill was passed by the House on a vote of 90-29, and is awaiting action by the Senate.  


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Don Berner, the Labor Law, OSHA, & Immigration Law Guy
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Boyd Byers, the General Employment Law Guy
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Jason Lacey, the Employee Benefits Guy
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