Illinois Workers’ Compensation law is nothing without its acronyms. Both TTD (total temporary disability) and TTE (temporary transitional employment) are variables in any given workers’ compensation case that can drive up or drive down exposure and costs.
TTD is a benefits payment made to a Petitioner employee while he or she is both treating and off-work for a work-related injury. TTD is a high cost driver for many workers’ compensation claims. This is because TTD can last for a long duration, is difficult to terminate, and has a maximum rate double that of PPD (partial permanent disability) because it is calculated at 133 1/3% of the state average weekly wage (SAWW).
TTD can only be suspended under a few specific scenarios, namely: (1) the refusal of a Petitioner to submit to treatment essential to recovery; (2) a Petitioner’s failure to cooperate in good faith with rehabilitation; (3) a Petitioner’s refusal to work so long as job duties fall within the physical restrictions prescribed by a doctor; (4) refusal by a Petitioner to submit to a section 12 examination, or independent medical evaluation (IME); and (5) an unreasonable delay in medical treatment. One set of circumstances under contentious debate in Illinois is in the situation of a Petitioner’s termination and the question of whether an employer can cease TTD payments after a Petitioner is terminated for misconduct at work. Thus far, binding courts in Illinois have decided to take a “hands-off” approach to these cases and to view these situations with a narrow focus: if a Petitioner was involved in a work injury and he or she is still not at maximum medical improvement (MMI) for that injury, they are entitled to TTD regardless of employment status. From an employer’s perspective, this leaves few avenues of recourse to avoid unnecessary exposure for this cost-driving element in a workers’ compensation claim.
TTE, on the other hand, relates to work completed by an injured Petitioner off-site through a third party. This type of work is performed until the Petitioner is cleared by his or her treating physician to work their regular job with no restrictions. Examples of places where TTE is carried out are the YMCA, The Salvation Army, and other charitable organization or non-profit establishments. TTE is utilized in situations where either a Petitioner is released to work with restrictions under the demand levels of their job or when a Petitioner is granted permanent restrictions. However, under current Illinois case law, TTE is not a required offer from a Respondent to a Petitioner. A Petitioner can reject an offer of TTE and, consequently, a Respondent cannot elect to suspend TTD payments when a TTE offer is rejected.
Yet, there could be a shift occurring in how Illinois courts are viewing TTE offers and how they can serve as a justification for termination of TTD benefits if refused. A recent Illinois Workers Compensation Commission decision in Stegan v. Reladyne, LLC provides evidence for such shift. In that case, Petition refused a TTE offer despite receiving a letter from his employer that his placement was a fit for his skills and restrictions, that he was still the employer’s employee, that the employer’s human resources policies would apply to him under the TTE arrangement, and that Petitioner would receive the same salary as if he was working full duty for his regular employer. The Commission found that, under circumstances such as these where the employer made expectations clear and the Petitioner still refused the TTE offer, that this provided the employer with a basis to terminate TTD. The opinion may not be affirmed by the higher courts as this case navigates through the appellate process, but this is a departure from prior rulings on TTE offers. Such a shift would provide employers with another tool to minimize exposure and to facilitate full duty work releases.
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