California Labor Codes 139.48 867

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§ Return-to-Work Program



(a) The administrative director shall establish the Return-to-Work Program in order to promote the early and sustained return to work of the employee following a work-related injury or illness.
(b) Upon submission by employers of documentation in accordance with regulations adopted pursuant to subdivision (h), the administrative director shall pay the wage reimbursement, workplace modification expense reimbursement, and premium reimbursement allowed under this section.
(c) Any employer, except the state or an employer eligible to secure the payment of compensation pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section  3700, may apply for a reimbursement for wages paid to an employee who has returned to modified or alternative work, as defined in paragraphs (5) and (6) of subdivision (a) of Section  4644, with the employer during the period the employee is temporarily disabled from his or her employment in accordance with all of the following:
(1) The reimbursement shall be allowed for up to 50 percent of wages paid to the employee.
(2) The reimbursement shall be allowed for a period of no more than 90 days, or until the employee is released to the full duties of his or her usual occupation, or until the employee's condition becomes permanent and stationary, whichever occurs first.
(3) The modified or alternative work is compatible with the employee's documented work restrictions imposed by the treating physician as a result of the work injury or illness.
(4) The reimbursement shall be paid from the Workers' Compensation Return-to-Work Fund, created in subdivision (i), as a reimbursement to the employer after submission of documentation of eligibility and wages paid.
(d) The administrative director shall reimburse an employer for expenses incurred to make workplace modifications to accommodate the employee's return to modified or alternative work, as follows:
(1) The maximum reimbursement to an employer for expenses to accommodate each temporarily disabled injured worker is one thousand two hundred fifty dollars ($1,250).
(2) The maximum reimbursement to an employer for expenses to accommodate each permanently disabled worker who is a qualified injured worker is two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500).  If the employer received reimbursement under paragraph (1), the amount of the reimbursement under paragraph (1) and this paragraph shall not exceed two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500).
(3) The modification expenses shall be incurred in order to allow a temporarily disabled worker to perform modified or alternative work within physician-imposed temporary work restrictions, or to allow a permanently disabled worker who is a qualified injured worker to return to sustained modified or alternative employment with the employer within physician-imposed permanent work restrictions.
(4) Allowable expenses may include physical modifications to the worksite, equipment, devices, furniture, tools, or other necessary costs for accommodation of  the employee's restrictions.

(e) (1) An insured employer may apply to the administrative director for reimbursement of workers' compensation insurance premiums attributable to the sustained employment of a qualified injured worker following the period for premium rebate provided in subdivision (a) of Section 4638. The reimbursement shall be equal to the standard premium computed on the wages paid by the employer to the qualified injured worker during each 12-month period.

(2) An employer that employs 100 or fewer employees on the date of injury may be reimbursed for 100 percent of the workers' compensation insurance premium paid for the employee for up to two years.  An employer that employs more than 100 employees on the date of injury may be reimbursed for 50 percent of the workers' compensation insurance premium paid for the employee for up to two years.  The period subject to premium reimbursement shall begin on the first day after the end of the 12-month period for premium rebate provided in subdivision (a) of Section 4638 and shall continue for a maximum of two years.
(3) The premium reimbursement shall be paid to the employer annually after each consecutive period of 12 months, provided that the qualified injured worker continues modified or alternative employment with that employer in a regular position that pays at least 85 percent of the employee's pre-injury wages and compensation.
 (f) This section shall not create a preference in employment for injured employees over noninjured employees.  It shall be unlawful for an employer to discriminatorily terminate, lay off, demote, or otherwise displace an employee in order to return an industrially injured employee to employment for the purpose of obtaining the reimbursement set forth in subdivisions (c), (d), or (e).
(g) For purposes of this section, "employee" means a worker who has suffered a work-related injury or illness on or after July 1, 2004.

(h) The administrative director shall adopt regulations to carry out this section. Regulations allocating budget funds that are insufficient to implement the maximum wage reimbursement, workplace modification expense reimbursement, and premium reimbursement provided for in this section shall include a prioritization schema according to which employers with less than 100 employees shall be given preference in the allocation of those funds.

(i) The Workers' Compensation Return-to-Work Fund is hereby created as a special fund in the State Treasury.  The fund shall be administered by the administrative director.  Moneys in the fund may be expended by the administrative director, upon appropriation by the Legislature, only for purposes of implementing this section.  The unencumbered balance remaining in the fund as of January 1, 2009, shall revert to the General Fund.
(j) This section shall be operative on July 1, 2004.
(k) This section shall not be implemented unless and until funds are appropriated by the Legislature for this purpose in the annual Budget Act or other statute commencing with the 2004-05 fiscal year.
 (l) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2009, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2009, deletes or extends that date.