In a workers’ compensation case, a supplemental job displacement benefit is a $6,000 voucher that can be used for education and job retraining expenses for injured workers who cannot return to long-term work due to permanent disability.
A worker injured on the job in California will qualify for a Supplemental Job Displacement voucher if both the following apply:
- he or she receives a finding of permanent disability from his or her work injury; and
- due to the permanent disability, the employer does not have permanent work for the injured worker
A voucher can be used for:
- education and vocational
- resume and job search services
- tools for training
- computer equipment
An injured worker can receive a voucher for each separate injury.
The voucher process goes through the following steps:
- a doctor determines if an injured worker has a permanent disability and work restrictions
- the employer decides if it has permanent work to offer the injured worker that takes into account his or her work restrictions
- if so:
- the employee can decide if he or she wants to accept permanent work
- if not:
- the employee is entitled to a voucher
An injured worker cannot settle a voucher for cash unless there is a dispute that the injury occurred.
In this article, our California personal injury attorneys will explain:
- 1. What are supplemental job displacement benefits?
- 2. How does an injured worker qualify California Supplemental Job Displacement voucher?
- 3. What is the process for a voucher?
- 4. Settlement of the voucher
- 5. Voucher and penalty
- 6. An injured worker has some control over the voucher process
When an injured worker cannot return to his or her work due to the permanent effects of the injury, he or she is entitled to a voucher to train for or find new employment.
Example: George is a film production worker. He injures his back at work. He has back surgery. Six months later his condition has stabilized.
George’s doctor says he should not lift more than 15 pounds. His employer does not have permanent work for George as all their positions require heavy lifting.
George receives a California Supplemental Job Displacement Voucher to help him get a job in a different field.
An injured worker must file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits to be eligible for a Supplemental Job Displacement Voucher.
The supplemental job displacement benefit is one of the four major benefits available to injured workers. The other benefits are
- medical care,
- temporary disability, and
- permanent disability.
An undocumented worker may not be able to obtain a voucher as the employer may not be able to offer permanent work due to his or her immigration status.
The supplemental job displacement benefit is a $6,000 voucher can be used to pay for:
- education-related retraining or skill enhancement at a California public school
- training at a State Eligible training provider list (ETPL) provider
- tuition, fees, books, other expenses1
- occupational licensing
- professional certification fees
- exam prep2
- placement agencies
- vocational counseling
- resume prep3
- tools required by education or training program4
- computer equipment up to $1,0005
- miscellaneous expenses up to $5006
Example: Wayne receives a supplemental job displacement voucher for $6,000 as a result of his injury.
- $3,500 on a vocational training program to learn computer programming
- $750 on a computer
- $500 on other equipment for the training program
- $450 on books and supplies
- $300 on job placement help
- $500 on miscellaneous supplies
Wayne submits a bill for the vocational training to the insurance company for payment. He submits receipts for reimbursement for the remaining expenses to the insurance company.
The voucher expires the later of:
- two years from the voucher date
- five years from the date of injury7
If an injury causes permanent partial disability, an injured worker is entitled to a Supplemental Job Displacement Voucher unless:
- the employer offers regular, modified, or alternate work
- and that the work lasts for 12 months or longer8
Any work offered by the employer must be within a reasonable commuting distance or at the pre-injury work location. The regular work must be at the same salary. The modified or alternate work must be at least 85% of the prior salary.
The employee can waive the reasonable commuting distance and accept the position if he or she finds the distance acceptable.9
An employer is not responsible if an injured worker is injured again while using the voucher.10
Example: Stacey’s work injury to her wrists has stabilized and her injury is unlikely to improve. She is permanently restricted from repetitively using her hands. Based on these restrictions, she cannot do her regular work.
Her employer wants to offer Stacey alternate work, but it would be in a lower level position at 75% of her prior salary.
Since the employer does not have permanent work that pays at least 85% of Stacey’s prior salary, they must give her a voucher.
An injured worker can get more than one voucher if he or she has more than one California workers’ compensation injury at the same time.11
Example: Vince has two separate injuries at work – he hurts his left arm on May 5th, and then hurts his right leg on May 12th. Vince is treated for both injuries at the same time.
Both injuries stabilize on August 23rd. Vince is given restrictions for both the left arm and right leg.
Vince’s employer does not have permanent work for Vince within the restrictions. Vince receives two $6,000 vouchers to help him obtain new work.
Determining whether an employee gets a voucher is a three-step process requiring a:
- doctor’s medical opinion,
- decision of the employer to offer work, and
- decision of the employee to accept the offer
The process for obtaining a voucher first involves a medical report determining the work ability of the injured worker. The doctor can fill out a California Physician’s Return to Work and Voucher Report.12
The report notes that the employee’s injury is considered permanent and stationary and that he or she has a permanent disability. It states whether the employee can return to regular work. If not, it lists the restrictions.
A doctor can also include this information in a narrative report.
The voucher report/medical report is sent to the insurance company.
Example: Kathy’s doctor has determined further treatment for her work injury is not going to improve her condition.
The doctor tells Kathy that her condition is permanent and stationary. He writes a report that says she:
- cannot return to regular work
- can only use a keyboard for up to four hours a day
- cannot stand for more than three hours in the work day
- cannot lift more than 10 pounds
The doctor sends the report to the insurance company, which will send it to the employer to see if they can offer Kathy permanent work.
The insurance company must contact the employer to see if the employer has work to offer the injured worker.
If the employer does not make an offer within 60 days, the injured worker should be offered the voucher within 20 days.13
Example: Mary’s employer receives information from the workers’ compensation insurance company that Mary has permanent work restrictions.
The employer reviews the restrictions to see if they have permanent work for Mary. However, the employer does not decide within 60 days. It is now too late to offer Mary the modified work, so she will receive the voucher within 20 days.
The employee has 30 days to accept or reject a California employer’s offer.
An employee who has who has taken no time off work for his or her injury and stays at the same job with the same employer is deemed to have accepted the offer.14
Example: Rachel has been treated for her injury for one year, and her condition has stabilized. She has not returned to work.
Her employer has offered her a different permanent job. But Rachel decides she does not want to return to her former employer. She declines the work.
Because she declined the work, she is not entitled to a voucher.
If an injured worker is entitled to a voucher, he or she cannot take cash instead.15 However, if there is some dispute as to whether the injured worker is entitled to any benefits, including a voucher, it can be settled for cash as part of a Compromise and Release.16
Example: Ian claims he injured his ankle at work. The employer denies the claim and says that Ian injured his ankle playing soccer.
Instead of fighting the insurance company Ian agrees to settle his claim for $12,000 with a Compromise and Release.
Since there is a dispute over whether Ian is entitled to any benefits, he can receive cash instead of the voucher.
The value of the voucher is part of the $12,000 settlement.
The insurance company may be subjected to a penalty for failure to timely provide a voucher.
The insurance company should reimburse the injured worker for expenses within 45 days.17 However, there is no penalty for failure to timely reimburse the employee.18 19
An injured worker should determine what kind of work activities he or she thinks are reasonable and let the doctor know. A doctor will often listen to an injured worker’s opinion.
If an injured worker wants to return to work, the doctor may write restrictions to allow for the injured worker’s request. If an injured worker would prefer not to return to work and instead receive a voucher, this may also be possible.
For additional help…
For help with filing a workers compensation claim in California, completing workers’ comp forms or appealing a denial of benefits, contact us. Our firm helps police officers, firefighters and other workers to get compensation for their job-related injuries in California.
- Cal Lab. Code § 4658.7(e)(1).
- Cal Lab. Code § 4658.7(e)(2).
- Cal Lab. Code § 4658.7(e)(3).
- Cal Lab. Code § 4658.7(e)(4).
- Cal Lab. Code § 4658.7(e)(5).
- Cal Lab. Code § 4658.7(e)(6).
- Cal. Lab. Code § 4658.7(f).
- Cal. Lab. Code § 4658.7(b)(1) & (2).
- Cal. Lab. Code § 4658.1(f).
- Cal. Lab. Code § 4658.7(i).
- Sesena v. Residence Inn 2017 Cal. Wrk. Comp. P.D. LEXIS 320.
- Cal. Code Regs. tit. 8, § 10133.6.
- Cal. Lab. Code § 4658.7(c).
- Cal. Code Regs. tit. 8 § 10133.31.
- Cal. Lab. Code § 4658.7(g).
- Beltran v. Structural Steel Fabricators 2016 Cal. Wrk. Comp. P.D. LEXIS 366.
- Cal. Code Regs. tit. 8 § 10133.31(j).
- McFarland v. Redlands Unified School District, 2017 Cal. Wrk. Comp. P.D. LEXIS 495.
- McFarland v. WCAB (2018) 83 Cal. Comp. Cases 371.