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HOP 3.3.3 Return to Work After Work-Related Injury or Illness

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Sec. 1 Purpose 

The purpose of this policy is to guide the process for returning to work following a work-related injury or illness for U. T. System Administration (U.T. System) employees. The Return-to-Work (RTW) Program will be administered by the U. T. System Administration's Office of Talent and Innovation (OTI) and Office of Risk Management (ORM).

Sec. 2 Principles

U.T. System Administration is committed to maintaining a safe and healthy work environment for its employees through the RTW program. It is the responsibility of all employees to report all work-related injuries or illnesses to ORM and OTI consistent with this policy. After a work-related injury or illness, U.T. System Administration will provide appropriate modifications that will benefit the employee and employer during their transition back to work.

Sec. 3 RTW Program Summary and Eligibility

The RTW program provides opportunities for an employee injured on the job to return to work at full duty. In situations where the injured employee’s physical restrictions limit their ability to return to work in a full duty capacity, the RTW program will provide temporary modified duty to allow the employee to perform their regular job.  Through the RTW program, an alternate temporary work assignment that meets the injured worker's capabilities may also be provided when possible.

3.1 Temporary Restriction. Employees who are temporarily restricted from performing their regularly assigned job duties due to a work-related injury or illness and can safely return to work will be offered employment following this policy's terms. In the absence of other legal or policy limitations, employees who can return to full or modified duty but choose not to do so may be subject to termination.

3.2 Americans with Disabilities Act. This policy should not construe employees who have modified duty as classified or perceived to have a disability, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

3.3 Eligibility. Any employee who has a work-related injury or illness within U. T. System Administration is eligible to participate in the RTW program.

Sec. 4 Required Documentation 

Before an employee is offered modified duty associated with an injury or illness sustained in the course and scope of employment at U.T. System Administration, the employee's treating doctor must outline the employee’s physical activity restrictions so that U.T. System can determine if modified duty is available and appropriate. The treating doctor will complete and provide a Work Status Report (DWC-73) to the injured employee, U.T. System Administration, and the claim adjuster. The Work Status Report establishes the extent and expected duration of the temporary work restrictions and provides a basis for any modified duty.

4.1 Employers First Report of Injury. After receiving notification of employee work related injury or illness ORM will coordinate with OTI, and the employee’s department regarding any lost workdays or physical activity restrictions. These offices will assist injured or ill employees and their supervisors with completing required documentation or reports.

 4.2 Periodic Evaluations Required. Employees who have modified duty due to work-related injury or illness shall be required to undergo periodic evaluations by the treating doctor to assess any changes in work status or job restrictions, in accordance with ORM procedure. The results of these evaluations shall be reported in writing to the Office of Risk Management, Workers’ Compensation Insurance (ORM-WCI) and OTI.

4.3 Employee Requirement. To protect employee’s rights under WCI, employees are asked to promptly notify their supervisor and complete a First Report of Injury within 24 hours of the injury or illness, or as soon as practicable.   Failure to report the injury (or the manifestation of the occupational disease) may result in the denial of a claim. Employees must also reasonably facilitate the successful delivery of requested documentation to U. T. System Administration.

Sec. 5 Modified Duty

Following receipt of the Work Status Report, the employee's regular department, in consultation with OTI and ORM-WCI, shall determine if modified duty will be offered. Only work that is considered productive and achievable to U. T. System Administration shall be considered.

5.1 Work in Another Department. If the employee’s regular department cannot reasonably accommodate the employee’s work restrictions, a modified duty assignment may be considered in another department.

Note:  For modified duty, the employee’s regular department will be responsible for paying the employee’s wages during the reassignment.

5.2. Possible Adjustment of Compensation. An employee’s salary may be adjusted in accordance with the modified functions or modified duty position. The employee placed in a modified duty position will be paid a salary that is equivalent to the salary of other employees holding the same position.

5.3 Employers Offer of Modified Duty. The UTS ORM-WCI Representative will work with the injured employee, OTI, and the employee’s regular department (other department as applicable) to offer a modified duty position. The offer of modified duty made to the employee is referred to as a bona fide offer of employment (BFOE). Once the decision to offer modified duty is made, the employee will be issued a bona fide employment offer that complies with Texas Administrative Code, Rule 129.6. The final BFOE will only assign tasks consistent with the employee’s physical abilities, knowledge, and skills. UT System Administration will provide training when appropriate to allow for the modified assignments. When presented to the injured employee, the BFOE will be labeled as ‘Employer’s Offer of Modified Duty.’ In addition, a work agreement must be completed and signed by the employee, supervisor, and OTI representative.

5.4 Refusal of BFOE. An employee will need to accept or refuse a RTW job offer as soon as possible, not to exceed 7 days. Refusal may affect the employee’s continuation of employment. An employee may also be required to forfeit any workers’ compensation income benefits they may be receiving, or may be eligible to receive in the future, if they refuse a temporary work assignment since the inability to obtain wages is no longer the result of the work-related injury or illness.

Sec. 6 Modified Duty Expectations

An employee performing any full or modified duties under this policy, is subject to the usual work performance standards of that job and of U. T. System Administration. Employees are also subject to removal from modified duty and/or disciplinary action in accordance with HOP 3.7.3, Discipline/Dismissal of Employees.

6.1 Compliance with Medical Instructions. The employee is responsible for following medical instructions on and off the job.

6.2 Performance of Modified Duty. The employee must immediately report any difficulties with performing assigned work. The supervisor and employee will work to address the problem and involve OTI as needed.

Sec. 7 Modified Duty Limits and Restrictions

An offer of modified duty may be established for any amount of time, not to exceed the limits described in this Policy.

7.1 Limits for Modified Duty. An employee is limited to 90 days of modified duty work in any rolling 12-month period. If doctor-provided evidence shows that the employee may be able to return to their regularly scheduled position within an additional 90 days, the employee may be allowed to work another 90 days of modified duty in the same rolling 12-month period with the approval of OTI and ORM-WCI. If the employee is not able to return to their regularly assigned position before the exhaustion of permitted days of modified duty, they may be subject to termination. In some cases, an employee exhausting their allotment of modified duty days may be eligible to remain employed pursuant to the terms of HOP 3.3.1 Leave (not limited to FMLA and Leave Without Pay.) and HOP 3.4.5 Accommodating Disabilities.  

7.2 When Restrictions No Longer Apply. If the employee’s treating doctor indicates via the Work Status Report that restrictions no longer apply and the employee is released to return to work full duty, the modified duty shall terminate upon the release to return to work full duty. The employee will then be allowed and expected to return to their regular duties and classification.

7.3 Return to Regular Duties. When determined that the employee is released to return to work at full capacity, OTI will coordinate with ORM, the home department and the injured employee to provide any guidance and information that can facilitate the employee's return to full duty (including addressing the need for any temporary or permanent workplace accommodations).

7.4 Exceeding the Maximum Number of Days. If at any time the treating doctor indicates in writing that the restrictions are expected to last beyond the employee’s maximum permitted days of modified duty, the employee’s offer of modified duty is subject to revocation and the employee may be subject to termination. If the employee is terminated, the adjuster will determine any continued entitlement to income benefits.

Definitions

Bona Fide Offer of Employment - written job offer for temporary modified duty that must be signed by the employee, supervisor, and OTI representative.

ORM-WCI - Office of Risk Management, Workers’ Compensation Insurance.

Temporary Modified Duty - temporary position to which an employee is assigned to when they are unable to return to his or her regular position and job duties following a work-related injury or illness.

Treating Doctor - doctor in charge of coordinating health care services for the injured or ill employee who determines the employee’s ability to return to work and determines restrictions that may be placed on the employee as they pertain to work.

Policy Details

Responsible Office(s)

Human Resources

Date Approved

Dates Amended or Reviewed