Overview

The Preferred Worker Program is one of our return-to-work incentive programs.

We may certify a worker with permanent medical restrictions as a "preferred worker." This certification enables an employer to receive financial incentives when they hire the worker for a medically-approved, long-term job.

Incentives

  • Financial protection against subsequent claims.
  • Premium relief.
  • One-time incentive payment for continuous employment, and reimbursement for:
  • 50% of the base wages paid to the preferred worker.
  • Some of the cost of tools, clothing, and equipment the worker needs to do the job.

Apply

For wage reimbursements, apply within 1 year of the date the work was performed.

For the Continuous Employment Incentive, the application submit the application within 1 year after the date the 12 months ended.

Submit the following with your signed application:

  • For wages: Copies of pay stubs and daily time-sheets.
  • For expenses: Copies of your original itemized receipts.

We can help you find opportunities for permanent duty modifications or equipment for your employee’s successful return to work.

Hire a Preferred Worker

If you hire a certified preferred worker or your current employee is a certified preferred worker, then:

  1. Make sure your account is active and in good standing with us. For State Fund employers, this means you are current on your premiums or the payments required under an approved payment plan.
  2. Develop a job that:
    • Meets the worker’s permanent work restrictions. (Note: The worker’s assigned vocational provider can help you. If no vocational provider is assigned, you can contact the Preferred Worker Program at 1-800-845-2634.)
    • Addresses a business need or provides economic value to you as an employer.
    • Will continue to be available into the foreseeable future.
  3. Complete a Job Analysis or Employer’s Job Description (F252-040-000)(Spanish), specifying the physical requirements of the proposed job and send it to the worker’s health care provider for review, with a copy to the worker.
  4. After the provider approves the job, offer the job to the worker in writing and have the worker sign it to indicate their acceptance.
  5. Complete Part B of the Preferred Worker Request form (F280-060-000)(Spanish), and attach the required documents:
    • Preferred Worker Request, signed by the employer.
    • Job Analysis or the Employer’s Job Description (F252-040-000)(Spanish), form for the preferred worker job with the medical provider’s signature that the tasks and duties needed to perform the job are within the medical restrictions of the injured or ill worker.
    • Job offer, signed by the worker.

You will then be eligible for incentive reimbursements once we approve your request.

Find more information on helping your employee return to work.

Apply and Get Benefits

As an eligible employer, you should apply as soon as possible. We cannot authorize any preferred worker benefits for dates worked prior to L&I’s receipt of all required and completed documentation, with the exception of the continuous-employment incentive and equipment purchases.

How to apply

If your employee is a certified preferred worker, then:

1. Make sure your account is active and in good standing with us. For State Fund employers, this means you are current on your premiums or the payments required under an approved payment plan.

2. Develop a job that:

  • Meets the worker’s permanent work restrictions.
  • Addresses a business need or provides economic value to you as an employer.
  • Will continue to be available into the foreseeable future.

Note: The worker’s assigned vocational provider can help you. If there is not an assigned vocational provider is assigned, you can email the VocRehabProgram@Lni.wa.gov for assistance.

3. Complete a Job Analysis or Employer’s Job Description (F252-040-000)(Spanish), specifying the physical requirements of the proposed job and send it to the worker’s health care provider for review, with a copy to the worker.

4. After the provider approves the job, offer the job to the worker in writing, and have the worker sign the job offer with their acceptance.
Complete Part B of the Preferred Worker Request form (F280-060-000) and attach the required documents:

Preferred Worker Request (F280-060-000), signed by the employer.
• Job Analysis or the Employer’s Job Description (F252-040-000)(Spanish), for the preferred worker job with the medical provider’s signature approving the work within given restrictions.
• Job offer, signed by the worker.

5. Submit all required documents:

Department of Labor & Industries
P.O. Box 44291
Olympia, WA 98504-4291

or

FAX: 360-902-4567

Employer benefits

Your benefits can start from the worker’s first workday after we receive all the required completed paperwork from you, and can last throughout the preferred worker's certification period, or until the preferred worker leaves your employment, whichever comes first.

As an eligible employer, your benefits may include:

  • 50% of the base wages paid to the preferred worker, for up to 66 days or $10,000 (whichever comes first), within a consecutive 24-month period.
  • Up to $2,500 for tools and equipment.
  • Up to $400 for worker clothing.
  • An incentive payment of 10% of the preferred worker’s wages or $10,000, whichever is less, at the end of 12-continuous months of employment.

The maximum limits on reimbursements for wages, tools, equipment, and clothing, and on the continuous-employment incentive, apply to each preferred worker certification period.

Premium relief

If you’re a State Fund employer:

  • No charges for Accident Fund or Medical Aid Fund premiums.
  • Supplemental Pension Fund premiums need to be paid. The hours worked by the preferred worker must be reported in class 7204.

If you’re a self-insured employer:

  • Once you have been reimbursed by L&I, you may deduct the amount of the claim cost reimbursement for a preferred worker's claim on your next self-insured quarterly report.
  • Supplemental pension and asbestos assessments must be paid.

The benefits above apply only to preferred workers certified after January 1, 2016.

How to get benefits for wages and expenses

Complete and submit the preferred worker reimbursement forms:

You can apply for reimbursements up to 1 year after the date the work was performed.

For wage reimbursements attach:
  • Timesheets.
  • Payroll records or paystubs.

(Note: A partial day worked counts as one day worked)

We need these records for wage reimbursement to verify the dates and hours worked and basic gross wages paid.

Base wages are not:
  • Tips, bonuses or commission.
  • Board, housing, or fuel.
  • Health care benefits (including dental and vision).
  • Per diem or reimbursements for work-related expenses or other payments.
  • Vacation, sick, holiday pay, or similar benefits.
For equipment, tools, and clothing reimbursements attach
  • A copy of your receipts for purchased items.

(Note: Keep your original itemized receipts)

Expense reimbursement

To help develop with a permanent return to work for your employee the Preferred Worker program may reimburse up to:

  • $2,500 for equipment or tools.
  • $400 for clothing.

All expense reimbursements must be for items used to help your worker perform the job offered position created. The program cannot reimburse for equipment, tools, or clothing you regularly provide for your employees.

Training materials/fees are not reimbursable under the Preferred Worker program.

To be reimbursed, tools and equipment must be purchased after you offer the worker the job, and no earlier than 60 days before the first date of the preferred worker’s employment.

Examples of potential equipment, training, or clothing

Equipment or tools: $2,500 per claim

  • Specialty tools
  • Keyboard tray
  • Sit-stand desk
  • Wheeled 5 gallon bucket

Clothing: $400 per claim

  • Steel-toes boots
  • Office or outdoor clothing

Remember to include copies of your dated, itemized receipts.

Our team can assist with identifying return to work opportunities for your employee’s successful return work.

You can apply for reimbursements up to one year after the date the work was performed.

If we receive a valid reimbursement request from more than 1 employer within the same worker certification period, the requests will be paid in the order received, up to the stated limits for wages, clothing, equipment and tools.

Continuous employment incentive

You can apply for the incentive up to one year after the last date of the 12-month period.

  1. Keep payroll records, timesheets, and paystubs documenting the days worked and wages paid.
  2. Complete and submit the Preferred Worker Continuous Employment Incentive Application for Employers (F280-065-000).

If we receive a valid reimbursement request from more than 1 employer within the same worker certification period, the requests will be paid in the order received, up to the stated limits for wages, clothing, equipment and tools.

Preferred Worker Resources

There are many resources available for employers and workers to help support people living with permanent physical or mental restrictions.

As a certified preferred worker, your vocational provider can assist you in finding a job that meets your medical restrictions. Anything you can do to support your own job search will help you find a job sooner.

As an employer, you can find assistance through L&I or from any of the resources below to help create a job that meets the physical or mental restrictions of a certified preferred worker.

As a job seeker you can find assistance through any of the resources below to help locate a job fitting you and your needs.

Job and accommodation resources

WorkSource Washington

L&I partners with WorkSource Washington to help injured workers re-connect to a new job after an injury. Re-employment specialists or WorkSource Vocational Service Specialists located at L&I and in WorkSource Centers across Washington assist by:

  • Immediately connecting injured workers to appropriate return-to-work resources when a worker is motivated to work during recovery but does not have a relationship with their employer of injury.
  • Assisting workers with resume writing, job coaching, peer-support workshops, and job referrals.

Additionally, the Vocational Services Specialists co-located in community WorkSource Centers provide injured workers, employers and private vocational counselors with return-to-work support.

Job Accommodation Network

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) offers free and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. JAN helps people with disabilities enhance their employability, and shows employers how to capitalize on the value and talent that people with disabilities add to the workplace.

JAN's Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR) features a multi-step tool for finding accommodation ideas that can be used for temporary or permanent light-duty or modified-duty job descriptions. Follow the step-by-step process to locate accommodation ideas by the specific disability-related limitation.

Other resources

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR)

DVR provides services to individuals who face a substantial barrier to finding or keeping a job. A DVR counselor works with each individual one-on-one to design a customized, step-by-step plan to achieve the desired job goal. You must qualify for these services. Once you fill out an application, DVR gathers records to verify your identity, disability and work status. You do not have to pay for services that DVR needs to establish your eligibility.

Washington Assistive Technology Act Program (WATAP)

A consumer advocacy network that provides information, resources and consultation on assistive technology.

Northwest ADA Center

Provides free consultation regarding compliance with the American Disabilities Act.

Disability.gov

Managed by the U.S. Department of Labor, the website lists programs and resources that help connect people with disabilities to resources including employment information.

USAJobs

USAJobs is the Federal government's official site for job information. It includes thousands of job postings across the United States and around the world. Through this site, you can search for openings in a particular field, city, agency, or all three.

Forms and Publications

Preferred Worker Wage Reimbursement Application for Employers (F280-059-000)

Preferred Worker Expense Reimbursement for Tools and Clothing - Application for Employers (F280-058-000)

Preferred Worker Continuous Employment Incentive Application for Employers (F280-065-000)

Preferred Worker Request (F280-060-000)

Job Analysis (F252-072-000)

Employer’s Job Description (F252-040-000)(Spanish)

Preferred Worker Program (F280-021-000)

Avoid Processing Delays

What are common reasons for denials or request for more information?

We must receive and approve the Preferred Work Part B application prior to preferred worker reimbursement. When we receive an incomplete application, we need to request more information from the employer and this may cause delays in your reimbursement.

This list may help you avoid any delays or denials of your request.

Both wage and expense applications

Preferred Worker Part B application must be complete and include:

  • Attending provider approved and signed job description or job analysis.
  • Formal job offer letter signed by the worker and the employer.
  • Employer’s signature on the application.
  • Ensure your L&I account is in good standing.
  • Avoid requesting the same dates for both the Stay at Work reimbursement and the Preferred Work reimbursement.
  • Send in the application timely.

Wage applications

  • Include both payroll records and time cards.
  • Fill out the total daily wages on the application.
  • Make sure the worker did not receive time loss payments for the dates requested.
  • Work must be performed on the days requested.
    • Example – You kept your employee on salary or they did not work the day requested on the time cards.
  • Amounts requested must not be for more than the worker was paid.

Expense applications

  • Date of purchase for expense item must be after attending approves the permanent job.
  • Include dated and itemized receipts for expenses and must be within 60 days of hiring the preferred worker.
  • Expense item must be necessary to do the permanent job.

Continuous Employment Incentive application

  • There is no break in employment.

Related Resources

Questions?

  • PrefWorkerProg@Lni.wa.gov
  • 1-800-845-2634