In a recent post on this blog, we noted that workers’ compensation is generally the exclusive remedy for injured workers in Wisconsin. Although an injured worker may, in some circumstances, sue a fellow employee for work-related injuries, and may sue third parties responsible for any such injuries, the employer’s responsibility is to provide workers’ compensation without respect to fault.
That being said, there are some situations where an injured employee’s workers’ compensation payment may be increased or decreased. Under state law employers are required to take any reasonable steps necessary to ensure a safe place to work and to protect the life, health, welfare and safety of employees. Workers, as well, have a duty to follow workplace safety requirements and to obey reasonable safety rules.
If an employer fails to take reasonable steps to make the workplace safe and to protect workers, an injured worker is entitled to a 15 percent increase in compensation. That amount may be paid to the employee or to surviving dependants up to a maximum amount in cases where the employer suffers a fatal injury.
Bu the same token, an employee who fails to use a safety device or to obey a reasonable safety rule may have his or her workers’ compensation award decrease by 15 percent. The safety device in question must have been provided and properly maintained, and its use must have been reasonably enforced by the employer, and the safety rule must have been enforced, with the employee having had notice of the rule. In addition, an employee who becomes injured on the job as a result of drug or alcohol use may have his or her workers’ compensation award decreased by 15 percent.
The determination as to whether an increase is justified is up to the Workers’ Compensation Division. Workers who may be entitled to an increase in compensation, as well as those who stand to potentially lose compensation, should work with an experienced advocate to ensure their rights are zealously advocated.