An Injured Worker’s Occupation at the time of an industrial injury can trigger a variety of rights and benefits within workers’ compensation. It can impact the Injured Worker’s Permanent Disability Rating and therefore affect the amount of the compensation the Injured Worker will receive as a result of their injury. It can also impact the Injured Worker’s entitlement to a job displacement voucher.
In California Workers’ Compensation Law, your Occupation can determine the amount of compensation as well as possibly causation of injury. As a result of this, litigation concerning an Injured Worker’s Occupational Group is not uncommon. There are many reported decisions concerning what occupation an Injured Worker had at the time of injury.
In California, some occupations can trigger an entitlement to evidentiary presumptions of injury being industrial. This primarly involves police and safety occupations. See Labor Code Section 5.
What is My Occupation?
If you haven’t figured out a name for your occupation, you will have to come up with a name for it with respect to your workers’ compensation claim. Don’t worry, however. You are not required to ultimately determine this issue.
A proper description of your job duties will assist in figuring out your occupation for workers’ compensation purposes. The parties involved can use your description to make an assessment. This includes your adjuster, your attorney, the insurance company attorney, the Disability Evaluator at the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, and the Workers’ Compensation Judge assigned to your case.
Soon after you are injured, you will be asked about your occupation. It will most likely begin at your treating doctor’s office. When you are at the doctor’s offices, you will be asked to state your occupation and describe your job duties. At a Qualified Medical Evaluation or an Agreed Medical Evaluation, you will be asked to state your occupation as well as provide a description of your job duties.
Why is My Occupation Important for Permanent Disability Rating Purposes?
Per the SCHEDULE FOR RATING PERMANENT DISABILITIES (2005) (SCHEDULE), “[a] final permanent disability rating is obtained only after the impairment rating obtained from an evaluating physician is adjusted for diminished future earning capacity, occupation, and age at the time of injury.” P. 1-3. [emphasis added]
In sum, the designation of your occupation is necessary in order for you to obtain your permanent disability rating.
Per the SCHEDULE, an occupational adjustment is to “take into account the requirements of the specific occupation that the employee was engaged in when injured.” Besides what you did on the job, there is also the question of what you were doing at the time of the injury. There are legal doctrines such as the “Dual Occupation Rule” that can come into play in determining one’s occupational group for the purposes of providing you compensation for your claim. See Grossmont vs. WCAB 62 Cal. Comp. Cases 687, 1997 Cal. Wrk. Comp. LEXIS 4483.
In sum, your occupation can cause your permanent disability rating to lower or increase.
What if My Occupation is not in The Schedule?
If your occupation is not in the SCHEDULE, the SCHEDULE instructs that “[i]f [an] occupation cannot be found, an appropriate occupational group is determined by analogy to a listed occupation(s) based on a comparison of duties.”
Again, the parties involved can use the description of your job duties to make an assessment as to your occupation and its appropriate occupational group number. This includes your adjuster, your attorney, the insurance company attorney, the Disability Evaluator at the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, and also the Workers’ Compensation Judge assigned to your case.
Once I know my Occupation, How is it Used to Get My Rating?
Once the parties to your claim know your occupation, then they can go to the SCHEDULE to obtain the Occupational Group Number. Within the SCHEDULE, there are pages of various occupations. For each of these occupations, there is an occupational group number assigned.
Once the correct Occupational Group Number is determined, it will be placed within the PERMANENT DISABILITIES rating formula along with the other data. The other data in the formula includes your Whole Person Impairment assigned to you within the medical reporting and the adjustment for your age at the time of injury.
What is an Occupational Group Number? Is There Any Meaning Behind it?
An Occupational Group Number is a three digit number. Each digit has meaning. For example, 110 is an Occupational Group Number. 490 is another Occupational Group Number.
What Does the 1st Digit Mean?
Per the SCHEDULE, the first digit refers to the arduousness of the duty. Job arduousness is ranked from 1 to 5. One being the least arduous and five being the most. Physical arduousness is essentially dealing with strength. The first digit is a strength designator. The numbers go as follows:
- Very Light
- Very Heavy
What Does the 2nd Digit Mean?
Per the SCHEDULE, the second digit refers to a number which is intended to separate occupations into broad categories of occupations sharing common characteristics.
This digit addresses various classes such as:
- Professional, Technical, Clerical
- Hand Intensive
- Machine Operators, Tenders
- Cleaners, Attendants
- Laborers, Material Handlers
- Mechanics, Installers, Repairers, Servicers
- Construction Workers
What Does the 3rd Digit Mean?
Per the SCHEDULE, the third digit differentiates between occupations within these groups of the second digit.
What Is an Occupational Group Variant?
An Occupational Group Variant is a corresponding letter. The letter is designed to reflect the occupations demand particular parts of the body or body systems. The letter is designed to address the intensity of the demand.
For instance, for a Loader/Unloader, the demands for the Lumbar Spine is great. As a result, the occupational group variant will reflect that demand and increase the value of the permanent disability rating.
The letter variants, per the SCHEDULE, have meanings. “[V]ariant “F” represents average demands on the injured body part for the particular impairment being rated, with letters “E”, “D” and “C” representing progressively lesser demands, and letters “G” through “J” reflecting progressively higher demands.”
In sum, the higher the letter beyond “F”, there is a likelihood that the permanent disability percentage will be increased. If the letter is before “F,” there is a likelihood that the permanent disability will be decreased.
There is a table within the SCHEDULE that makes the adjustments. If you would like to see the tables and adjustments, please go to the following link. https://www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/PDR.pdf
As an Injured Worker, Where Can I Get Advice?
If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. They have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their worker’s compensation cases for 26 years. Contact us today for more information.