Advocacy Update

Written by Forrest Wall, CAE, Staff Vice President and Industry Relations

Senate Committee Approves Revised Judicature Act Change

The Michigan Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee approved a bill which would amend the Revised Judicature Act in a section of the law relating to the unlawful interference with a tenant’s possessory interest. Senate Bill 112 would change a provision in the law that protects a property owner from a violation of a tenant’s possessory interest in cases where the owner believes in good faith that the tenant has abandoned the premises. The bill would add language that, in addition to the owner, a determination of abandonment could be made by a court officer, bailiff, or deputy sheriff. The original version of this legislation, sponsored by Senator Peter J. Lucido (R-8th District), actually replaced the ability of the owner to determine abandonment with a requirement that it be a court officer, bailiff, or deputy sheriff. After discussing the issue with Sen. Lucido, the original ownership determination of abandonment was added back. This is an important provision in the law, as a property owner found in violation under this section is subject to damages. The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Budget Plan Would Change Business Tax
Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s recently released budget plan includes a key change for business owners in Michigan. In addition to the much publicized gas tax increase, the plan calls for an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit, a pension tax repeal, and an expansion of the 6% Corporate Income Tax (CIT). Currently, the CIT only applies to C- corps. Tax revenue from other business entities (S-corps, LLC’s, partnerships) is captured when owners pay the 4.25% personal income tax rate. Under Gov. Whitmer’s plan the CIT would be expanded to include these pass-through entities, with a credit for what the owners pay in personal taxes. Additionally, the first $50,000 in income from pass-through entities would be exempted. The debate over this plan is still in the early stages as the Republican legislative leaders will offer their ideas and begin the process of moving budget bills.

Posted in 2019, April 2019 | Comments Off on Advocacy Update

Advocacy Update

Forrest WallWritten by Forrest Wall, CAE, Staff Vice President and Industry Relations

Senate Committee Considers Eviction Legislation

One of the first bills introduced in the new legislative session would amend a section of the Summary Proceedings to Recover Possession of Premises chapter of the Revised Judicature Act. Senate Bill 3 proposes to revise the list of individuals a court could command to restore a plaintiff’s possession of premises following a judgement, as well as specify the procedure for removing personal property. Under existing law, a court entering a judgement for possession in a summary proceeding must issue a writ commanding a sheriff, or other officer authorized to serve process, to restore full possession. The legislation proposes to expand and specify the types of people the court can assign to include bailiffs of the issuing court, deputy sheriffs of the county in which the court is located, or an officer of a law enforcement agency of the local unit of government in which the court is located. The bill then specifies that all personal property from the premises must be left in an area open to the public or in the public right-of-way, or by delivering the property to the sheriff as authorized by the sheriff. The Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee is considering the legislation.

Enhanced Lien Legislation Introduced

Legislation introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives would enable a city to attach liens to additional property in cases involving overdue blight violations. Michigan law currently allows a city to obtain a lien against the land and buildings in blight violation cases where the property owner is delinquent in paying civil fines or costs. House Bill 4123 proposes to expand this law to allow a city the opportunity to attach the lien to any other land and buildings in Michigan owned or subsequently purchased by the property owner. AAM is opposing this legislation in the House Committee on Local Government and Municipal Finance.

Posted in 2019, March 2019, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Advocacy Update

Understanding Common Aspects Of Claims Resolution

Written by Grace Peabody, Peabody Insurance Agency

Dealing with workers’ compensation claims isn’t always as straightforward as one might hope. Unfortunately, as an employer, sooner or later you will have to deal with an employee injury. To help you through the process, here is a breakdown of some of the common concerns employers have while working through claims.

Independent Medical Examinations (IME)
Your workers’ compensation insurance carrier is entitled to schedule an independent medical examination, or IME. They may choose any doctor, chiropractor or psychologist. Usually, the adjuster chooses a doctor who specializes in the worker’s injury. The examination may be scheduled at any time during the claim. Once the worker is properly notified of the appointment, he or she must attend. Failure to attend places their claim on hold. Few doctors are willing to perform these examinations. They are in private practice and are not on the staff of the insurance company. Therefore, it may take a few weeks to get an appointment.

Why is an IME Scheduled?
Early in a claim, there may be a question if the injury is work-related. Is the injury a pre-existing condition? Did work actually cause the condition? Is the medical condition directly related to something at work? When these issues arise, adjusters schedule the IME soon after the claim is submitted.

Later in the claim, the adjuster may feel it’s time for the worker to return to modified or regular work. When treatment seems to drag on, an IME may be scheduled. Perhaps the worker had a new, non-work accident. An IME may help sort the work condition from the non-work condition. If the treating doctor awards permanent disability higher than normally expected, an IME may be used to see if the rating is appropriate.
An IME may be scheduled more than once on a claim. The insurance carrier is entitled to examinations at reasonable intervals. If you are concerned about any of these issues and think an IME might help, speak to us or your adjuster.

What is nurse case management?
With nurse case management, when an employee is injured, a nurse is available via 24-hour hotline to assist the employee on how to properly care for the injury. Nurses intercept the claim at the point of injury to ensure that employees obtain the right type of care from cost-effective providers. In severe cases, a nurse will recommend emergency care. With minor injuries, they are able to guide an employee through first aid and self-care treatment, or send the employee to an occupational clinic or the employer’s preferred provider network.

What benefits does it offer?

  • With immediate medical advice available for employees, insureds may be able to reduce the frequency or severity/duration of workers’ compensation claims, ultimately lowering the cost of workers’ compensation insurance premiums.
  • Nurses can triage injuries to the most appropriate level of care, assessing and assigning a degree of urgency to a wound or illness.
  • The hotline handles required paperwork, ensuring consistent, complete recordkeeping and claim filing.
  • Return to work coordinators receive immediate notification of the claim, allowing them to send a job description to the treating physician, who can use the information to make a more informed and accurate decision on whether to release the employee to full or modified duty.
  • Efficient treatment accompanied by prompt and open communication minimizes dissatisfied injured employees, and consequently decreases costly workers’ compensation litigation.

Workers’ Compensation Hearing Applications
Workers, employers or insurance companies may file a hearing application to resolve workers’ compensation disputes. Most hearing applications are filed by workers. The application notifies the state of a dispute and initiates the legal process. A copy is forwarded to the employer and notifies them of the dispute. The application explains the claim in general. The claim may be for additional lost time, additional permanent disability benefits, penalties or unpaid medical expenses. Most workers are represented by an attorney, but they are allowed to proceed without representation if they wish.
Applications are delivered by mail. If you receive a hearing application, contact your adjuster immediately. An answer must be filed within a specified time period of the mailing. Many applications can be handled and resolved by the adjuster. More complex applications are referred to a defense attorney.

Hearings
Once the application is filed, the state allows time for the parties to submit their proof. After a time, the state will schedule a hearing. You will receive a Notice of Hearing six to nine months after the application is filed. The date of the hearing is two or three months following Notice of Hearing. Most hearings take four hours. A company representative should attend the Hearing to display your concern. Also, workers tend to be more accurate in their testimony when you are present. The judge’s ruling is usually rendered within 30 to 90 days. Therefore, it can take close to a year to go through the legal process.

What do I pay a Worker on Modified Duty?
A worker has been off due to a job-related injury. Their doctor says they can return to modified duty, and you have identified a job. When the doctor limits the number of hours a worker can be at work, you offer work up to that limit. What should they be paid?
You could pay the worker their normal rate while on modified duty. The advantage is they are being paid by you. If they work a normal week, insurance payments end. The disadvantage is that you are probably paying more than the modified duty is worth. It removes the incentive to return to normal work. This can affect the morale of co-workers.
Another option is to pay the rate for the job being done. This may be less than the worker’s regular pay, motivating the worker to return to their regular pay promptly. Most union contracts allow employers to place a worker into modified work. If your contract does not allow this, you may wish to bring this up at the next negotiation.

Should you require assistance with understanding or applying the OSHA Standards, please contact Grace Peabody, Peabody Insurance at (810) 629-1504 or gpeabody@peabodyinc.com

Posted in 2019, March 2019 | Comments Off on Understanding Common Aspects Of Claims Resolution

Return To Work Programs . . . Return To Health And Happiness

Written by Grace Peabody, Peabody Insurance Agency

A Return to Health and Happiness
Return to work programs help you get injured employees back to their normal or modified job duties as quickly and safely as possible.
Instead of paying for workers’ compensation costs and lost work days, you’ll save money by paying your employees their normal wages for doing light-duty work that the company needs done anyway. You’ll also be able to keep them on their regular work schedules, which is proven to increase their likelihood of returning to regular working duties sooner.

Benefits for Your Company
Return to work programs reduce employees’ days away from work, allow employees to recover more quickly and foster a more positive work environment. Implementing a return to work program can benefit your company financially by:

  • Anticipating and controlling hidden costs
  • Reducing the financial impact of workplace injuries
  • Providing a proactive approach to cost containment
  • Improving your ability to manage an injury claim and any restrictions
  • Getting your experienced employees back to work, resulting in less time and money spent on recruiting and hiring
  • Helping you keep regular contact with injured employees

Your company can benefit from a return to work program in other ways, including:

  • Boosting morale
  • Keeping injured employees productive
  • Discouraging abuse
  • Demonstrating a consistent procedure
  • Establishing solid communication and organization
  • Enhancing injured employees’ self-worth

Benefits for Your Employees
Return to work programs don’t just benefit your company—they benefit your employees, too. Implementing a return to work program for injured employees communicates care and concern, and shows your employees that you value their well-being and want them back on the job as soon as possible. Your employees also benefit from a return to work program in the following ways:

  • Retaining full earning capacity
  • Maintaining a productive mindset
  • Staying on their regular work schedule
  • Avoiding dependence on a disability system
  • Having a sense of security and stability
  • Seeing management’s commitment to employees’ well-being reinforced

Where to Begin?
The below steps will help you construct an effective return to work program and create meaningful work assignments for workers injured both on and off the job. For a more complete return to work guide and sample policy, go to app.aamfund.com and download the free editable guide.

  • Know the Facts – Gather some initial information on return to work programs to learn about their potential for cost savings and about how to adapt programs for your company’s needs.
  • Gather Data – Ask your co-workers about their thoughts on injuries and return to work practices to determine how much work will be needed to complete your return to work program.
  • Demonstrate a commitment to early return to work – Make it clear that your program will be committed to the recovery process above all else.
  • Create Goals – Define clear objectives for your program so that employees know what to expect.
  • Create a return to work team and define its responsibilities –  Appoint a team to provide leadership, set expectations and act as a communication channel for your program.
  • Develop a workflow chart outlining the return to work process – Use a workflow to identify next steps and to eliminate confusion in the return to work process.
  • Develop and maintain a job bank – Create a list of possible transitional roles for injured employees who return to work.
  • Create a communication and education plan – Make sure employees are aware of their job responsibilities both before and after an injury occurs.
  • Recordkeeping – Keep a transitional duty database so you can measure the success of your program and make adjustments when needed.
  • Distribute the plan – Make your program easily accessible to all employees, and have them sign and date acknowledgement forms to reduce your liability.

Many companies fail to implement return to work programs because they don’t have the resources or expertise to get started. Return to work programs must be organized and implemented efficiently. The AAM Work Comp Fund and Peabody Insurance can help you do just that by providing you with the resources you need to make your program a success, including educational articles, forms and policies.

If you require assistance, please contact Grace Peabody, Peabody Insurance at (810) 629-1504 or gpeabody@peabodyinc.com.

Posted in 2019, February 2019 | Comments Off on Return To Work Programs . . . Return To Health And Happiness

Advocacy Update

Forrest WallWritten by Forrest Wall, CAE, Staff Vice President and Industry Relations

Legislative Session Ends Without ESA Reform

The final days of the 2017-18 Michigan Legislative Session proved frenetic as Governor Snyder and Republicans in both legislative chambers sought passage of numerous priorities. All legislation not enacted in the 2017-18 session will need to be reintroduced in the 2019-20 session and start the process over again. Below is a recap of a few key apartment industry issues:

Emotional Support Animals – The highest priority for which AAM sought passage at the end of the session was Senate Bill 663, which would have strengthened state law to help prevent the false representation of possession of an emotional support animal. The bill passed the Michigan Senate but was ultimately not considered by the Michigan House in the final days of the session as physician groups and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights raised late opposition to certain provisions in the bill. This legislation will be reintroduced in 2019.

Rent Control Bills – The preemption of local rent control is one of the most significant legislative accomplishments in AAM’s history. Unfortunately we are forced to constantly defend this law, and this legislative session was no exception. Three bills were introduced – but not acted upon – to either repeal or allow exceptions to the act. House Bill 4456 proposed a complete repeal, while House Bills 4686 and 4687 would have allowed local units of government the ability to limit rent for disabled individuals and senior citizens while providing property tax breaks to property subject to the local controls.

Prompt Payment – Legislation requiring private construction contracts to include a clause requiring prompt payment for labor, materials and services was also successfully opposed by AAM. The bill exempted single family residential and attached residential less than 7 units, but apartment buildings over 7 units were included with other types of construction.

“Open and Obvious” Codification – Senate Bill 1017 would have provided specific statutory language supporting the “open and obvious” doctrine in Michigan relating to the liability of property owners to injuries, such as slip and falls. Currently, there is no law providing clarity on this issue as its standard came from judicial rule. While this legislation passed the Michigan Senate, it did not pass the Michigan House.

Tree Ordinances – Arising out of a well-publicized dispute in Canton, a package of bills limiting local tree ordinances for certain zoning classifications was introduced in November and hotly debated in the final days of the session. After passage by the Michigan Senate, the bill package stalled in the Michigan House.

Posted in 2019, February 2019 | Comments Off on Advocacy Update