New Incentives for Employers Help Workers Recover After a Workplace Injury

Leah with one of her patients.

Written by Rena Shawver,  L&I Return to Work Partnerships

Leah’s Story

When a horse reared up behind her, all Leah could do was hope for the best as the 1,200-pound animal came down on top of her.  The vet tech knew instantly her back was broken.  After multiple surgeries to repair several breaks and a long recovery period, Leah had recovered physically as much as possible.  Among other things, her “new normal” meant no heavy lifting. She realized her permanent physical restrictions would not allow her to work with large animals again.  But being a veterinarian technician was the only work she knew; and she loved her job. 

Today, Leah is working full-time as a vet tech with a new employer at a small animal emergency clinic. Although she was hired for her skill, as a certified preferred worker through the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), her employment comes with financial incentives that will benefit both her and her employer.

Veterinarian technician Leah Wiltse-Perry was severely injured when a horse she was leading reared up and came down on her, breaking her back in several places. Through the Preferred Worker Program, she’s been able to find a medically-appropriate permanent job as a vet tech working with small animals at Pet Emergency Clinic in Spokane.

Supporting workers after recovery

Like Leah, some workers are not able to go back to their old jobs because of permanent medical restrictions caused by a workplace injury or illness. They’ve healed but are limited from doing certain tasks.

L&I certifies these workers through the Preferred Worker Program and provides financial incentives and premium relief to eligible employers who create medically-appropriate, long-term jobs for preferred workers.

Major changes to the Preferred Worker Program

Last January, the Washington State Legislature expanded the Preferred Worker Program to allow all employers in Washington State, including the employer of injury and self-insured employers, the opportunity to hire a preferred worker.

Under the rules of the expanded program, employers will receive the following:

  • Financial protection against subsequent claims,
  • Premium relief,
  • Bonus payment equal to 10% of the worker’s wages or $10,000, whichever is less, for continuous employment, and
  • Reimbursement for:
    • 50% of the base wages paid to the preferred worker, up to $10,000.
    • Some of the cost of tools, clothing, and equipment the worker needs to do the job.
Leah shows her supervisor, Mike O’Dea, DVM, and her Vocational Service Specialist, Ellen Nagourney, how the modified equipment bought through L&I’s incentive programs help her at work.

Why offer incentives to support jobs?

Many employers at heart want to help their workers after an injury, but find making that transition from the job of injury to a new job that meets the worker’s physical or mental restrictions a hardship financially.

Preferred Worker Program incentives help the worker and employer keep their relationship, giving them extra support and guidance through a transition period often with the help of a vocational counselor.

Other return-to-work incentives

Stay at Work is another return-to-work incentive program. L&I reimburses eligible employers for some of their costs when they provide temporary, light-duty jobs for injured workers while they heal. Employers covered through the workers’ compensation State Fund may qualify for financial incentives from both the Stay at Work Program and the Preferred Worker Program.

Hiring employers could also qualify for additional financial help to modify equipment at worksites that will help preferred workers complete certain work-related tasks.

Using return-to-work programs help lower an employers’ workers’ compensation costs both in the short and long-term.

Learn more about the Preferred Worker Program

Already, about 100 employers have contacted L&I with interest in hiring some of the 1,500 certified preferred workers who are ready to work and are supported by the financial incentives of the Preferred Worker Program.

To learn more, sign up for one of L&I’s  Preferred Worker workshops by going to  Or contact the Preferred Worker Program by phone at 1-800-845-2634 or by email at to ask how to apply for preferred worker benefits.

Hear more about Leah’s story by watching this video.


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New Year’s Resolutions for Your Home

The start of a new year is the perfect time to make some changes for the better, whether in your personal life, your professional life, or a little bit of both. Instead of limiting your New Year’s resolutions to yourself this year, why not make a few for your home as well? By tackling some of those much-needed renovation and repair projects around the house, you and your home can both be as healthy and happy as possible in 2016.

FM House Resolutions Blog 1.11.16

  1. Out with the old and in with the new

Tired of wrestling with your old lawnmower or temperamental stove? Stop. Make this year the year you finally replace those headache-inducing appliances with something new, energy-efficient and easy to use. If you’re tight on cash, consider looking at gently used appliances to help you upgrade without sky-high prices.

  1. Say goodbye to clutter

Even if you keep your home clean and organized, there’s probably more clutter underfoot than you realize. Take a long weekend and tackle one room after another, getting rid of everything you don’t need. Donate what’s still usable and dump the rest. Even though you probably had a reason to save those bank statements from 1992, it’s now time to say goodbye. Don’t forget to shred documents with any personal information.

  1. Make sure you’re safe and sound

Your home may look great, but is it as safe as it could be? Even if you’ve never had any issues before, there’s no such thing as being too careful. Resolve to make your home safer this year, whether that means upgrading your security systems or simply double-checking smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries more often.

  1. Reduce, reuse, recycle

It’s a good motto to live by, especially when it comes to your home. Reducing your energy usage can be a great way to cut back on monthly expenses and live a greener lifestyle. By taking simple steps like turning off lights before leaving home, setting appliances to economy or energy saver mode and improving your home’s insulation, you can reduce your bills and do your part towards helping the environment.

  1. Take a second look

When was the last time someone took a look at your HVAC system? If you aren’t sure, it might be time to call in an expert to perform a routine inspection. Be regularly servicing your appliances, you can have a better idea of your home’s needs, saving money on repair costs and taking care of maintenance problems before it’s too late.

  1. Exercise your green thumb

Plants can do wonders for the look and feel of a home, both inside and out. If you have property outside, make this the year you tend to the garden, planting a mix of beautiful flowers and useful herbs and vegetables to create an attractive and functional space in your yard. No room outdoors? Consider a window herb planter instead.

  1. Improve organization

You’ve cleared out your clutter, but what about those essentials you can’t part with? Improving your organizational system can go a long way in keeping your home neat and organized. Rather than keeping piles of paper sitting around or purchasing unattractive filing cabinets, consider investing in cube shelving units with wicker baskets to keep files in one place without sacrificing decor.

  1. Stock up on the essentials

Are you ready for a natural disaster? Things like tornadoes, power outages, hurricanes, and snow storms aren’t common, but getting caught unaware can be devastating when danger strikes. Stock up on basics like flashlights, batteries and bottles of water to ensure you’re ready, just in case.

  1. Do it yourself

Have you been putting off those big renovation projects because there’s no room in the budget? Instead of hiring an expensive contractor, take care of those little projects yourself. Many websites have tutorials that can help you take care of things like installing tile, replacing carpet and repainting, letting you spruce up your home for a fraction of the cost.

  1. Keep it clean

Finding the time to clean can be a real challenge, especially when you work during the day and take care of your family at night. Rather than letting things get out of hand, establish a cleaning schedule early, with different chores assigned on different days. Once you get into the rhythm of handling responsibilities on a daily basis, it’ll be much easier to work household tasks into your schedule.

A new year isn’t just a chance to improve yourself; it’s a chance to improve your home, too. By making these 10 New Year’s resolutions, you can make sure this will be your house’s best year yet.

Can Black Friday Really Save You Money?

Over the years the “biggest shopping day” of the year has evolved into the “biggest shopping weekend” of the year; more recently the seven days around Thanksgiving are now deemed “Deal Week”. Retailers are capitalizing on Black Friday as a concept instead of an actual day. These Black Friday deals can be had, it seems, any day of the week, and for weeks prior to the actual date itself. So did those that still camp under dark skies in front of department store entrances on Thanksgiving night not get the tweet?  People are now getting holiday shopping done long before Thanksgiving Day and at holiday discount prices. Is there really any reward for those still facing crowds in malls across America on Black Friday?

Black Friday

Apparently yes. According to Bankrate, the global financial services company, steep discounts can be found on Black Friday but typically on lesser quality models of merchandise.[i] This year, as in years past, electronics, the lead bait of several retailers, are expected to have huge discounts on the Friday after Thanksgiving, but on lesser models; high end electronics will see further discounts but not of the “doorbuster” variety their lower end counterparts will have.

Despite the National Retail Federation’s definition of the holiday shopping season as November and December (61 days), the biggest shopping day remains Black Friday, according to ShopperTrak, a business which tracks consumer foot traffic in malls. A quarter of the US population will be spending money on Black Friday in stores and online. With numbers like these, retailers will deliver steep discounts to keep consumers enticed and spending. The heavily discounted merchandise expected to lure holiday shoppers include tablets, TVs, DVDs and video games, cookware and kitchen gadgets, as well as household appliances both large and small (think washers/dryers and vacuum cleaners, especially refurbished models). Reeled in by steep discounts on big ticket items, shoppers can then expect to find themselves surrounded by merchandise that didn’t sell well earlier in the year – now heavily discounted. Retailers are banking on consumers walking away with merchandise even if its merchandise they wouldn’t have bought months ago. The commitment to Black Friday shopping almost requires money be spent to feel the experience it was worth it, by the consumer. These items may be marked so low that they are hard to turn down, but this is what retailers want. Black Friday on average makes up 20% of retailers entire annual revenue, for some businesses Black Friday sales are as much as 30% of their annual revenue.[ii] Retailers want people in the door this day, and great deals are what accomplishes that. It’s the most competitive shopping day of the year, not only for consumers but for retailers as well; price matching anyone?

Let’s face it, some simply love the sport of Black Friday shopping. After all, shouting matches and fistfights have become synonymous to Black (and Blue) Friday just as 7 layer dip is to Super Bowl. They go hand in hand. And of course there are the hours of holiday cocktail party storytelling these incidents provide were you ‘lucky’ enough to witness the altercations that a combination of sleep deprivation, limited merchandise and a massive crowd are sure to provide. Happy shopping!