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An astonishing work comp failure


Smart employers and their insurers craft programs that encourage employees to return to work as quickly as feasible after an injury.

It's well known that transitioning injured employees back to work reduces benefits costs and lost productivity.

But Los Angeles County has a different, perhaps backward, approach. According to an appalling Los Angeles Times story, county employees are possibly being discouraged from returning to work –or at the very least being ignored- after suffering injuries.

The Times story details how a probation worker on the job for six months strained his shoulder and hurt his ankle. For seven years afterward he collected comp benefits. Yet he continued earning income by acting on television shows and movies.

Then he sued the county, alleging his employer failed to help him return to work. He received a $125,000 settlement.

No wonder the county's comp bill soared from $288 million last year to $407 million this year.

For public and private sector employers that work hard to reduce claims costs, Los Angeles County's practices must sound ridiculous. That is because they are. They are costing a cash-strapped county money.

And not only is the county short of money, its woefully short of good leadership.

Across the country, the New York Workers' Compensation Board released a study last week describing the number and nature of work comp claims stemming from the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

About 45,000 people have filed comp claims and special affidavits related to World Trade Center work injuries. That includes attack victims and rescue workers.

New York City police and firefighters are not counted in those numbers as they participate in a separate system.

The report is available here.