The Preferred Worker Program is a return-to-work incentive program for Washington employers. If a worker is permanently restricted from their job due to a workplace injury, they may be certified as a "preferred worker." Employers who hire a preferred worker for a medically-approved job can be eligible for the following benefits:
- Claim protection against subsequent claims for up to 36 months.
- Premium discount for the preferred worker’s coverage for up to 36 months. Use our Preferred Worker Calculator to estimate your company's quarterly savings.
- Wage reimbursement for 50% of the preferred worker’s base wages for up to 66 working days (max $10,000).
- Expense reimbursement for tools and equipment (max $2,500) and clothing (max $400) the worker needs to perform the approved job.
- Continuous employment incentive of 10% of the preferred worker’s wages for the first 12 months (max $10,000).
Benefits are available to the employer during the preferred worker certification period. Washington State Fund employers must have an L&I account in good standing. Self-insured employers can receive benefits for hiring a preferred worker previously certified under a State Fund claim.
Steps to Preferred Worker Program benefits
- Hire a preferred worker. It could be an external candidate or one of your own employees. (Tab 2)
- Create a job description that meets the preferred worker’s permanent restrictions, and send it to the worker’s health care provider for approval. (Tab 3)
- Create a job offer letter and have the preferred worker sign it to indicate their acceptance. (Tab 4)
- Request L&I approval of the preferred worker job. Submit Part B of the Preferred Worker Request form in order to become eligible for benefits. (Tab 5)
- Apply for benefits. After receiving L&I approval for the preferred worker job, you can apply for Preferred Worker Program benefits.
Due to confidentiality, a list of preferred workers cannot be made available. Employers who are interested in hiring a preferred worker can take the following steps:
- Advertise that your company is Preferred Worker Friendly. Order a free window sticker to display at your business location. You can also download a Preferred Worker Friendly logo for your website or a logo for printed materials such as your company’s job application form, job postings, etc.
- Post jobs on WorkSource Washington. Many preferred workers use WorkSource Washington in their job search, and employers can post jobs for free on the WorkSource website. You can also contact the L&I vocational specialist at your local WorkSource center for assistance.
A preferred worker may apply to your job posting, or one of your own employees may become eligible for preferred worker status:
It is up to the preferred worker to voluntarily disclose their status. If a new hire discloses that they have preferred worker status, you can ask to see their L&I approval letter for confirmation. Your next step is to create a job description that is within their permanent medical restrictions.
NOTE: If you are not the employer of injury, you cannot access the claim information without the preferred worker’s written permission.
If you have an employee who is permanently restricted from their job, or unable to perform at least one of the essential functions, due to a workplace injury, your next step might be to apply for preferred worker status. Check the eligibility requirements and apply for preferred worker status for your employee.
NOTE: Employees with self-insured claims cannot be certified as preferred workers. However, self-insured employers can receive benefits for hiring a preferred worker previously certified under a State Fund claim.
First, develop a job that:
- Meets the preferred 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.
The Job Accommodation Network provides a Searchable Online Accommodation Resource to find accommodation ideas by the specific disability-related limitation.
NOTE: The following jobs are not eligible for preferred worker benefits:
- The job of injury with minor or no modifications
- Work that is beyond the worker's medical restrictions
- Work that requires training beyond what is usual and customary
- On-the-job training
Next, complete a Job Analysis or Employer’s Job Description specifying the physical requirements of the proposed job. Only credentialed vocational providers may complete a Job Analysis. If you do not have a vocational counselor, you may complete the Employer’s Job Description Form (Spanish).
Then, send it to the worker’s health care provider for approval.
If you would like assistance from a vocational provider, ask your Claim Manager for a referral, or contact the Preferred Worker Program at (800) 845-2634 or PrefWorkerProg@Lni.wa.gov.
After the health care provider approves the job description, then you can offer the job to the preferred worker in writing. A formal job offer ensures that everyone knows what the worker is able to do safely, and will adhere to the approved job description. The worker needs to sign the job offer to indicate their acceptance.
The job offer letter for the preferred worker job should include the following:
- A statement that it is reasonably continuous work
- Job title
- Job duties
- Start date and location
Here is a sample permanent job offer letter.
If you would like assistance creating a job offer letter, ask your Claim Manager, or contact the Preferred Worker Program by calling (800) 845-2634 or email PrefWorkerProg@Lni.wa.gov.
- Job description approved by the health care provider
- Job offer letter signed by the worker
Mail or fax the completed form to:
- Department of Labor & Industries
P.O. Box 44291
Olympia, WA 98504-4291
- Fax: 360-902-4567
Your benefits can start the worker’s first workday after we receive all the required documentation, and can last throughout the preferred worker's certification period, or until the preferred worker leaves your employment, whichever comes first.
Upon approval, you will receive a letter and order indicating the start of the preferred worker’s certification period. Risk class 7204, Preferred Workers, will be added to your account for reporting the preferred worker’s hours on your quarterly reports. For questions regarding your account, please contact your Account Manager.
If you need help completing this form, call the Preferred Worker Program at (800) 845-2634 or email PrefWorkerProg@Lni.wa.gov.