In Wisconsin, workers compensation benefits are paid for an injury or condition only when the following conditions occur, as defined by Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 102:
• The employee sustains an injury or has a physical or mental condition
• At the time of the injury, both the employee and the employer are subject to the provisions of the Act
• At the time of the injury, the employee is performing service growing out of and incidental to his or her employment
• The employee’s injury has not been self-inflicted
• The accident or disease that causes the employee’s injury arises out of his or her employment
If these conditions are met, under Wis. Stats. Sec. 102.03(2), workers compensation benefits are the injured workers only remedy against his employer for his damages, he or she cannot sue the employer for damages. If there is a third party responsible for the injury or condition, then there could be a separate tort claim apart from the workers compensation claim.
Governor Walker reorganized the Department of Workforce Development Worker’s Compensation Division in his 2015 budget bill, effective January 1, 2016. Before the reorganization, the DWD WC Division was a single agency of approximately 100 people, including administrative law judges (ALJs), court reporters, and claims administration staff. The old WC Division did two things: administered all worker’s compensation claims and, if necessary, heard all worker’s compensation claims hearings.
Starting January 1, 2016, the old DWD WC Division duties were split, with claims administration functions remaining with the DWD WC Division. But the hearings function with the ALJs, have been transferred to the Department of Administration, Division of Hearings and Appeals.
Because the WC Division has been split in two, the administrative duties of the DWD WC Division are now referred to as the “department.” Under the new law, the hearing duties of the DOA DHA, are now referred to as the duties of the “division.”
Under the new arrangement, the ALJs transferred to the DOA DHA are not statutorily directed or limited to hearing only worker’s compensation cases, and worker’s compensation cases are not statutorily limited to being heard only by the ALJs formerly with the WC Division. Governor Walker vetoed a provision that would have directed the transferred ALJs to devote 80% of their time to worker’s compensation cases, leaving it to the DOA DHA administrator’s discretion for the assignment of tasks. However, the DOA DHA administrator has expressed a general intent that all worker’s compensation cases will be heard by the ALJs who were transferred from the DWD WC Division.
McCormick Law Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin has been an active advocate for a strong, independent workers compensation system in Wisconsin.