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By: Jerry Sisk, Partner at Mottaz & Sisk Injury Law
It’s been more than a century since our state legislature enacted the first Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act. As in most areas of life and law, much has changed. Attorneys moored in the world of workers’ compensation know that solidified laws that have been relied upon for years are different than they were even a decade ago.
Psychological injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have become an allowable condition for workers’ compensation. Wage loss compensation caused by contracting COVID-19 in the workplace is now allowable for front-line workers. Despite the legalization of medical marijuana in Minnesota, it’s not a compensated treatment.
Here are 6 significant changes in workers’ compensation law in Minnesota over the last decade that can impact everyone involved in the legal triad: injured workers, employers and insurers.
1. Psychological Injuries Become Compensable
In 2013, PTSD became a compensable injury for workers who developed psychological/mental issues performing their jobs. Prior to the change, only mental issues that arose from physical injuries were covered by workers’ compensation law. The law change following the shootings at Red Lake High School in 2005 where teachers suffered without recourse under Minnesota workers’ compensation.
In 2019, the law was amended to provide an evidentiary presumption of PTSD for first responders. This means they can be presumed to have developed PTSD due to their work in healthcare, law enforcement, corrections, etc.
2. It’s a No for Medical Cannabis Compensation
Despite medical marijuana’s purported medicinal qualities for a variety of injuries, the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2021 struck down an effort to include cannabis as an allowable work-related injury treatment covered by workers’ compensation. The court justified its opinion because marijuana is illegal under federal law. The effort to include medical marijuana as a treatment covered by workers’ compensation ended there as the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
3. Rethinking Workers’ Comp During the Pandemic
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, a presumption law was enacted to allow workers’ compensation claims for peace officers, healthcare workers, corrections employees and those providing childcare to first responders and healthcare workers. On or after April 8, 2020, these employees could receive workers’ compensation if they were unable to work due to contracting COVID-19 (presumably at work) or having symptoms of the disease.
4. 50 More Weeks for Temporary Partial Disability
In 2018, workers’ compensation benefits increased from 225 to 275 weeks for wage loss due to temporary partial disability (TPD). This wage loss benefit is for injured employees who return to work but are making less than their pre-injury weekly gross wage. However, only those who were injured on or after October 1, 2018, qualify for the additional 50 weeks. Those injured before this date are still subject to the 225 week limit.
5. Retirement Presumption Age Threshold Increased
Due to employees working longer before retiring, the retirement presumption in workers’ compensation law was changed from age 67 to 72 in 2018. Permanent total disability (PTD) pays to age 72 as well, or 5 years after the injury, but there is not a retirement presumption due to the worker being completely unable to work due to injury.
6. Permanent Partial Disability Payments Increased
2018 was a big year for changes to Minnesota workers’ compensation law. In addition to all the changes previously mentioned, PPD payments increased slightly for those who suffered a permanent partial disability on or after October 1, 2018. The increase elevates the compensation for those with these types of permanent injuries.
What Changes are Ahead?
While the details of the changes to Minnesota workers’ compensation law over the last decade are important, it’s equally important to remember that solidified law changes with the times. In my role as Chair of the Workers’ Compensation section of the Minnesota Association for Justice, we collectively work to facilitate legal changes in the workers’ compensation system. Stay tuned for more details on the efforts we’re taking to help injured workers, their attorneys, and the system as a whole.
Jerry Sisk is recognized by Super Lawyers magazine as a Super Lawyer and Rising Star. He sits on the Executive Committee for the Minnesota State Bar Association and Minnesota Association of Justice. Currently, Jerry is Chair of the Workers’ Compensation section of the Minnesota Association of Justice. He is co-host of the Podcast, “MN Work Comp Connection,” and a contributor to the Minnesota Association of Justice Trial magazine.