Worker entitled to additional retraining benefits to obtain bachelor's degree
Case name: Menard, Inc. v. State of Wisconsin Labor and Industry Review Commission, No. 2012AP1278 (Wis. Ct. App. 01/08/13, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that a planogrammer was entitled to additional vocational retraining benefits.
What it means:
In Wisconsin, an injured worker will not be entitled to vocational rehabilitation benefits beyond 80 weeks if the primary purpose of further training is to improve upon preinjury earning capacity rather than restore it.
A planogrammer injured his right knee while working, resulting in a permanent partial disability. His employer later terminated him. He sought vocational rehabilitation. He and his vocational rehabilitation counselor formulated a plan that called for him to obtain a bachelor's degree in business administration. An administrative law judge awarded him 80 weeks of retraining benefits, which was the minimum all recipients received. Subsequently, the planogrammer and his counselor amended his plan to change his course of study to an alcohol and other drug abuse counselor. After attending seven semesters of college, he sought additional weeks of retraining benefits. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that he was entitled to an additional 40 weeks of retraining benefits.
The employer asserted that the planogrammer should not be entitled to additional retraining benefits because of his "frequent revisions to his course of study," the "leisurely pace" of his studies, and his "failure to mitigate retraining expenses." The court pointed out that the planogrammer's plan called for him to attend school for nine semesters. He only revised his course of study once and that did not add any time or cost to his studies. He also earned good grades and was diligent in taking his courses. The court explained that the initial award temporarily limited him to seven semesters of benefits, which was insufficient to obtain a bachelor's degree.
The employer also said that his felony history was an obstacle to employment. The court pointed out that the planogrammer indicated that he was able to be licensed and employed.
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April 18, 2013
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