2024 Legislative Session Preview
The Washington State legislature is back in session! Here is an update of some of the bills that have been introduced for this session that could affect our clients:
- Good faith/fair dealing in self-insured worker’s compensation claims
- IME recording in worker’s compensation claims
- Return to work/expansion of light duty in worker’s compensation claims
SB 5524 concerns the duties of self-insured employers and their third-party administrators by imposing a duty of good faith and fair dealing. During the 2022-23 session, a similar law was passed that created a duty of good faith and fair dealing for public sector self-insured employers only. SB 5524 would expand that duty to all self-insured employers and their third-party administrators. This bill was introduced, but it didn’t get past initial hurdles, so this will likely be reintroduced next session.
During the 2022-23 session, the legislature passed a bill that allows workers to record their IMEs. That law went into effect in July 2023. Since then, as workers have sought to exercise this right, various points of contention have arisen regarding whether the doctors have the right to record as well. Employers and IME companies are likely to put pressure on the legislature in the future to modify the IME recording law, but nothing was introduced by the deadline this year.
SB 5368 relates to expanding the stay-at-work program by allowing employers to offer off-site light duty return to work opportunities to injured workers. This bill is sponsored by Senators Keiser, King, Conway, Schoesler, Randall, Torres and Wilson. This bill would allow an employer with 100 or fewer employees to offer off-site light duty work to an injured worker with a non-profit organization under the current Stay-at-Work Program. It would allow L&I or the employer of injury to contract with a return-to-work employment agency for the purpose of offering the work.
It is worth noting that the current version of this bill prohibits the employer from disclosing the worker’s medical restrictions to the non-profit organization without the worker’s written consent. If the worker does not provide consent, then any light duty work must stay with the employer of injury. The employer of injury would still be responsible for any new injury or occupational disease that is incurred while the worker is working at the light duty site. The worker may reject the off-site light duty job offer without any disruption to benefits.
This bill passed out of the Senate and is heading to the House with a few amendments.