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University of Houston - Victoria

Office of the Vice President for
Administration and Finance

SECTION: PERSONNEL INDEX: C-11

SUBJECT: RETURN-TO-WORK PROGRAM

POLICY

It is the policy of the University of Houston-Victoria (UHV) to return employees to meaningful, productive employment following work-related or off-the-job injuries or illnesses. The UHV Return-to-Work Program is an employee benefit that management is committed to. If an employee is able to work, but is unable to return to his or her regular duties, this policy provides options, when available, for the employee to return to work in a modified or alternative assignment until capable of performing the duties and responsibilities for which the employee was hired.

The Human Resources Payroll Manager is the Return-to-Work Program Coordinator and also serves as the Workers’ Compensation Claims Coordinator.

All return-to-work decisions shall be approved by the employee’s departmental supervisor, the Director, Human Resources/Affirmative Action, and the Return-to-Work Coordinator.

POLICY PROVISIONS

The return-to-work program provides opportunities for employees to return to work following illness or injury. The return-to-work program includes opportunities for any university employee covered by workers’ compensation insurance who sustains a compensable injury or illness during the course and scope of employment, to return to work at full duty.

This return-to-work program shall not be construed as recognition by this university, its management, or its employees that any employee who participates in the program has a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008. If an employee sustains an injury or illness that results in a disability, it is the employee's responsibility to inform the supervisor or a person in a responsible management position when a disability under the ADAAA exists, and that a reasonable accommodation may be necessary to perform the essential functions of his or her job.

The University complies with the ADAAA which prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. Nothing in this policy shall be used as the basis for illegal discrimination against any individual or group.

The University complies with the Family and Medical Leave of Absence (FMLA) Act of 1993. The policy on FMLA is detailed in UHV Administrative Policy and Procedure, C-26 Family and Medical Leave (References).

All employees during the hire-in process and again upon an on-the-job injury, should that occur, shall be provided information by the Human Resources Department about the Workers’ Compensation Benefit Program as well as medical care information for work-related injuries and illnesses. Employees shall acknowledge receipt of this information in writing.

It is a violation of the return-to-work policy, procedures, and state or federal law for any employee, supervisor, or manager of the university to discharge or in any other manner discriminate against an employee of this agency because the employee:

  • Files a workers’ compensation claim in good faith; and /or
  • Hires a lawyer to represent the employee in a workers’ compensation claim; and /or
  • Institutes or causes to be instituted in good faith a proceeding under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act; and /or
  • Testifies or is about to testify in a proceeding under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act.

DEFINITIONS

  • Worker’s Compensation Insurance – Insurance that pays medical and income benefits to workers who are injured at work or have work-related diseases or illnesses. This type of insurance protects workers by assuring that they are compensated for their injuries. Workers receive benefits based on the type and severity of their injuries.
  • SORM – State Office of Risk Management. Agency mission is to assist other state agencies in protecting their employees and the State’s physical and financial assets by reducing and controlling risk. As part of this mission, SORM administers the employee workers’ compensation insurance program for the State of Texas.
  • ADAAA – Acronym for the federal Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act.
  • FMLA – Acronym for the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

PROCEDURES

Statement of Responsibilities

The success of the UHV Return-to-Work Program requires an understanding of the roles and responsibilities of all participants:

  1. The supervisor is responsible for:
    1. Ensuring prompt medical attention for an employee injured or becoming seriously ill on the job. If appropriate, the supervisor or another employee may accompany the injured or ill employee to the medical provider;
    2. Training employees on proper reporting of incidents and injuries and return-to-work procedures;
    3. Determining whether meaningful modified or alternate duty assignments meeting the employee’s medical/work restrictions would be available;
    4. Should the employee request and qualify for a temporary assignment, ensuring the employee’s job position description accurately indicates the physical requirements and the essential and non-essential functions of the position;
    5. Ensuring that the employee returning to a temporary assignment follows the medical work restriction of the health care provider.
  2. The Return-to-Work Coordinator has two primary areas of responsibility:

    Return-to-Work Program Responsibilities

    1. Ensuring that the program is applied consistently, in compliance with the ADAAA, FMLA and the Texas Workers' Compensation Act;
    2. Acting as the Return-to-Work Coordinator, taking a proactive approach in the return-to-work program and monitoring return-to-work activities;
    3. Providing the employee with information on how to get health care for their injury under worker’s compensation insurance and requiring a signed acknowledgement from the employee (ReferenceS);
    4. Acting as the university’s representative;
    5. Providing SORM-85 to employee to give to treating doctor;
    6. Providing DWC-73 to employee to give to treating doctor;
    7. Communicating regularly with the injured employee and the doctor after each follow-up visit if the employee is off work;
    8. Providing information to doctors, including the injured employee’s job description, to help them understand the employee's regular job, the employer's return-to-work program, and available work alternatives;
    9. Sending a Bona Fide Offer of Employment letter, via certified mail to the employee, offering temporary or transitional assignment, if the medical provider indicates modified duty is acceptable;
    10. Sending a copy of the Bona Fide Offer letter and DWC-73 to the SORM adjuster;
    11. Maintaining contact with the health care provider, the insurance company, the employee, and the employee's supervisor;
    12. Maintaining necessary records and reporting for incidents and injuries.

    Injury Reporting Responsibilities

    Complete SORM forms required to notify carrier of injury/incident, including:

    1. DWC-1S First Report of Injury
    2. DWC-3 Wage Statement
    3. DWC-6 Supplemental Report
    4. SORM-16 Medical Information Release
    5. SORM-80 Election of Leave
    6. SORM-29 Employee's Report of Injury
    7. SORM-74 Witness Statement
  3. The employee is responsible for:
    1. Understanding university procedures for reporting injuries, and reporting any injury or job related illness immediately to your supervisor;
    2. Understanding that medical care provider information for on-the-job injuries under the workers’ compensation program will be provided by the Human Resources Department and that HR will answer questions you may have;
    3. If restricted for any type of work, notifying supervisor immediately, and if off work, at least once a week to let them know how you are doing;
    4. Providing copy of DWC 73 to the Return-to-Work Coordinator if health care provider releases you to restricted duty;
    5. If health care provider releases you to work, return to work on the next scheduled shift;
    6. If health care provider issues medical/work restrictions for an alternative work assignment, follow those orders.

Temporary Assignments

If the employee is not physically capable of returning to full duty, the return-to-work program provides opportunities, when available, for offering the employee a temporary assignment in which the employee's regular position is modified to accommodate the employee's physical capacities, or a transitional assignment with alternate duties. Assignment of any employee to a transitional position or modified regular position in accordance with the return-to-work program requires the approval of the Director, Human Resources/Affirmative Action (HR/AA), Return-to-Work Coordinator, and the supervisor.

If an employee is unable to return to regular duties, either the employee or the university may request a temporary assignment. Performance of a temporary job assignment is intended to return an injured employee to work at less than his or her full duties when a compensable injury or serious medical condition prevents the employee from working full duty.

Temporary assignments are subject to the following conditions:

  1. Assignments are available for six months only;
  2. Once the employee’s health care provider certifies that the employee can return to work, the supervisor must adhere to the employee’s medical/work restrictions;
  3. Supervisors are responsible for ensuring the employee’s position description accurately indicates the physical requirements and the essential and non-essential functions of the position;
  4. An employee who returns to work in a temporary assignment may be assigned to another work site within the university, depending upon the availability of vacant positions or the limitations or abilities of the employee;
  5. An employee will not be placed into a temporary position if the assignment would displace another current employee;
  6. An employee in a temporary assignment is responsible for providing periodic reports from his or her health care provider during the period of the temporary assignment;
  7. The employee's hourly wages or monthly salary in a transitional assignment shall be paid by the employee's home department or division. If a temporary assignment warrants a pay change for the affected employee, the Director, HR/AA is responsible for determining the correct pay rate. In the case of a faculty member, the Director, HR/AA will work with the Vice President for Academic Affairs in this determination. If a pay change is warranted, the Return-To-Work Coordinator will notify the State Office of Risk Management adjustor to evaluate whether additional benefits are available;

There are two types of temporary assignments: modified duty and alternate duty. The university will consider the employee’s or supervisor's request for return-to-work to a temporary assignment according to the following criteria:

  • Modified Duty – Performance of all the essential functions but only a portion of the non-essential functions and tasks of the regular job duties for which the employee is employed. Modified duty allows the employee to return to current employment in their regular job and perform those duties and tasks that are within the capabilities of the employee, given the restrictions to duty imposed by the health care provider. Modified duty is a temporary arrangement until the injured employee can resume full duty.

  • Alternate Duty – Performance of the essential functions of a job or position other than the position for which the employee is employed. Alternate duty allows the employee to temporarily perform other duties and tasks that satisfy the work/medical restrictions imposed by the health care provider. Such alternate duty may be physically located in the same department or in some other department. Alternate duty is a temporary arrangement until the injured employee can resume the full activities of their regular job.

BONA FIDE OFFER OF EMPLOYMENT

Assignment to any of the types of positions described under Temporary Assignments will be documented in a "Bona Fide offer of employment" letter (References) to the employee. The employment letter shall follow the format of the SAMPLE letter which includes the requirements of Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission Rule 129.6. The letter will include:

  1. a statement that the university is aware of and will abide by any physical limitations under which the health care provider has authorized the employee to return to work and will provide training if necessary, for the position being offered;
  2. the type of position offered and the specific duties;
  3. the maximum physical requirements of the job;
  4. the wage rate of the job (determined on a case basis by HR/AA);
  5. the location of the assignment;
  6. the expected assignment duration;
  7. the consequences of not accepting the assignment, in terms of duration and any income benefits payable under the Texas Workers' Compensation Act, and any other relevant leave provisions. The letter is to state that the university cannot guarantee that a position will be available should the employee fail to accept the assignment;
  8. the person to contact if the employee has questions regarding the assignment, job modifications, or other relevant leave provisions;
  9. a required written acknowledgement and response from the employee.

The employee may accept or reject this bona fide offer of employment. The employee should be informed that rejection of the bona fide offer of employment may result in workers' compensation temporary income benefits (if applicable) being stopped or reduced by the State Office of Risk Management as the state's insurance carrier. If the employee accepts the bona fide offer of employment, then the employee shall perform the duties of the position for the term of the assignment or until the employee is able to return to full duty, whichever is sooner in the case of a temporary assignment.

If the employee rejects the bona fide offer of employment, then the employee remains off work until the end of any approved leave period or until the employee is certified by the health care provider to return to full duty.

In the case of a temporary assignment, if the employee is unable to return to full duty by the end of the assignment period and/or by the end of the employee's approved leave period, then the employee's continued employment with the university shall be evaluated, based upon the operational business necessity of filling the employee's position.

REFERENCES

  1. UHS Policy 01-C-10, Return-to-Work Program
  2. Bona Fide "offer of employment" letter
  3. Return-to-Work Management Checklist
  4. Claims Coordinator Checklist
  5. UHV Policy, C-26 Family and Medical Leave
  6. Employee Notice of Medical Care Information for Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses
  7. Texas Department of Insurance Workers’ Compensation Forms

Approved by:

Signature Obtained
Philip Castille, Ph.D
President

01/11/2013
Date


Origination: Human Resources Department
Next Review Date: December 2015

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