Nov. 4, 2020 – Every year millions of workers in Wisconsin are injured on the job.
Before 1911, Wisconsin workers had little recourse other than to sue their employers in a civil action. In 1911, Wisconsin enacted the Worker’s Compensation Act (WCA), which requires employers to compensate workers for injuries suffered while performing their jobs.
Under the WCA, workers can receive payment and benefits for loss of wages, cost of medical treatment, rehabilitation, and even disability payments.
For more history on worker’s compensation in Wisconsin, see the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development website.
State Statutes and Regulations
There are two primary statute chapters for workers compensation. They are:
Note: Wisconsin statutes, including chapter 102, contain several versions of the phrase, including “worker’s compensation,” “workers’ compensation,” and “workers compensation.”
And there are several Administrative Code chapters relating to worker’s compensation, including:
State and Federal agencies overseeing and administering workers compensation:
In Wisconsin, the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) oversees worker’s compensation, and its worker’s compensation website is a great source of information.
Carol Schmitt, Masters of Library & Information Studies, U.W.-Madison, is a legal research specialist in the Madison office of Reinhart Boerner and Van Deuren. She is a board member of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin (LLAW), whose members regularly contribute to InsideTrack.
From the main page users can link to individual pages containing information related to workers, employers, insurers (including self-insurers) or medical providers. There are links to resources such as forms, sample standard letters of instructions, insurance letters and legal resources.
For those representing or working for insurance companies, there is an entire page dedicated to benefit and wage computations that includes basic information on computing payments for temporary total disability (TTD), temporary partial disability (TPD), and permanent partial disability (PPD). One can also view the Permanent Partial Disability Schedule referenced in Wis. Stat. section 102.52.
At the federal level, the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) administers four programs that provide benefits to injured workers:
the Federal Employees Compensation Program (DFEC);
the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Program (DLHWC);
the Energy Workers Program (DEEOIC); and
the Coal Miners’ Compensation (“Black Lung”) Program (DCMWC).
The webpages for each program contain information about the individual program, FAQs, forms and links to regulatory materials for each program.
Books and Treatises of Interest
There are several good publications on workers compensation.
DWD provides a full text downloadable copy of the Workers’ Compensation Act of Wisconsin on their website. The Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance also has a publication called Consumer's Guide to Worker's Compensation Insurance.
Worker’s Compensation Handbook, published by State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE®. Available in print and digitally via PINNACLE’s Books Unbound, is an excellent starting point.
Now in its 9th edition, this treatise provides comprehensive coverage on the practices and procedures of worker’s compensation. Chapters cover the employment relationship, the calculation of wages and disability and death benefits, filing of claims, handling appeals and settlements. At the back of the book, readers will find copies of the Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation Act, as well as relevant administrative agency rules and forms.
Three other books published by PINNACLE include chapters on worker’s compensation. Those titles and relevant chapters are: Employment Law in Wisconsin, chapter 8; The Law of Damages, Vol. 1, Chapter 13; and Wisconsin Attorney’s Desk Reference, chapter 3.
Last but not least, other treatises that you may want to add to your research list include Wisconsin Workers’ Compensation (the Wisconsin Practice Series, volume 17) and Workers’ Compensation Law, both published by Thomson Reuters (West); and Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law from Matthew Bender (Lexis Nexis).
The Wisconsin Labor & Industry Review Commission (LIRC) rules on appeals in worker’s compensation. On the LIRC website, over 2,000 full text Workers Compensation decisions, as well as published workers compensation decisions from both the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals can be searched and accessed.
There are also links to the Workers’ Compensation Digest, and workers compensation research resources and information on appealing worker’s compensation case.
Many of the books and treatises covered in the previous section also include case annotations.
COVID-19 Challenges and Worker’s Compensation
The COVID-19 pandemic presents many challenges for employees and employers, including the question of worker’s compensation benefits.
Generally speaking, Wisconsin and federal employees classified as “high risk” employment – first responders, law enforcement and front line workers – who contract COVID-19 in the course of performing their job will be eligible for worker’s compensation benefits.
Wisconsin also enacted legislation that establish rebuttal presumption for first responders – which means it will be assumed that COVID-19 was contracted through work exposure. 2019 Wisconsin Act 185 establishes a “rebuttal presumption.”
For more information related to worker’s compensation and COVID-19 see, DWD's webpage on worker's compensation and COVID-19 and U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Workers' Compensation Program Response to the Coronavirus.
The Wisconsin Legislative Notification service allows you to set up and track legislative proposals, committee hearings, and administrative rule notices. The service is free and will deliver information directly to your email.
Many of the commercial subscription services (Westlaw, Lexis, Bloomberg etc.) also provide customizable alert and tracking services on state and federal legislation to their subscribers.