How to Calculate Worker’s Comp Benefits for Part-Time Workers in Wisconsin
If you get hurt at work in Wisconsin and receive worker’s compensation benefits, the benefit amount is related both to the severity of your injury and your wages at the time you got hurt.
If you are working part-time when injured, this may or may not mean that you will get paid less for some benefits than you would if you were working full time. Whether or not depends on:
- how your employer structured your part-time work, and
- whether you were working part-time by choice
Wisconsin Law Usually Allows “Expanding” Part-Time Wages to Full-Time Equivalent to Calculate Worker’s Compensation Benefits
This means a part-time worker’s wage – for worker’s compensation purposes – will be calculated as their hourly rate, times forty. Two exceptions to this rule are common:
1. If You Are Part of a Regularly Scheduled Class of Part-Time Employees
To be considered part of a regularly scheduled class of part-time employees, an employee must be a member of a group of part-time employees who do the same type of work and who maintain the same type of regular work schedule. To apply this exception, there also cannot be more than a five-hour variance from the employee’s week-to-week hours, or from one employee in the class compared to another who is doing the same work in the thirteen weeks preceding the injury. For example, if you normally are scheduled for 15 hours per week, but a few weeks before you got injured you worked 25 hours, this exception would not apply.
If this exception applies, your wage will be raised to a minimum of twenty-four hours per week for worker’s compensation purposes, or to your actual hours if they are higher than twenty-four.
2. If You Signed a Document or Said in a Recorded Statement That You Are Restricting Your Hours by Choice
Wisconsin presumes that workers over the age of 16 are not working part-time by choice. Therefore, the State requires evidence stating otherwise to prove you were restricting your hours by choice.
Such evidence usually comes in the form of a certain document you may sign after the injury, confirming you were restricting your hours by choice and you do not have another job.
If this exception applies, your weekly temporary total disability benefits will be capped at the amount of wages you actually earned per week. However, your permanent partial disability benefits after you reach end of healing will still be based on your wage if expanded to forty hours per week (subject to the maximum rate on permanent partial disability benefits for the year you were injured).
If Neither of These Exceptions Apply, Your Wage Should Likely be “Expanded”
The default rule in Wisconsin is that a part-time worker’s wage for worker’s compensation purposes will be their hourly rate times forty.
What If I Am Underpaid or Overpaid Benefits?
The insurance company may try to underpay your benefits on the basis that you were working part-time. They may use only your actual gross wages to determine your benefit rate, when they really should be “expanding” your wage. In the case of an employee self-restricting his or her hours, they may also pay weekly wage loss benefits at the correct rate, but use this same lower rate for paying permanent partial disability benefits, which is not correct.
Although far less common, it is possible that the worker’s compensation insurance company will pay you weekly benefits at your “expanded” wage, when they really should be paying you at a reduced rate. If you hire an attorney to go after benefits for you after your claim is denied, the insurance company may argue that they have already “overpaid” you by a certain amount. The insurance company will likely be able to take a credit for this overpayment and reduce the amount you’re entitled to for your other benefits.
These Issues Can Be Complicated
Part-time wages can make determining the proper worker’s compensation benefit rate complicated. Additional issues can arise if you work a seasonal position, work a second job, or have other unique situations. Because these issues can be complicated, it’s always best to contact an experienced worker’s compensation attorney to discuss your particular situation.
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