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What is “Loss of Earning Power” or LEP?  

Industrial worker as it relates Loss Earning Power with L&I claim

You’ve probably heard of time loss benefits. This is what the Department of Labor and Industries or your self-insured employer pays you if you’ve suffered an on-the-job injury in Washington State and your doctor says you can’t currently return to work. The state officially calls these Temporary Total Disability payments.

What if your doctor gives you restrictions that will not allow you to do the job you were doing but will let you do something less physically challenging (perhaps the same job but fewer hours)? By definition, you wouldn’t be considered Totally Temporarily Disabled. But, you may be entitled to Loss of Earning Power payments, as you have temporarily (or permanently, perhaps) lost the power to make the money you earned before you were injured.

So, who’s eligible for LEP, and how does it work? Let’s discuss! 

Understand the factors that impact LEP

LEP payments may be available in your claim if you return to work fewer hours in the same job, if you return to work for less pay*, or if you return to work in a different job and no longer qualify for employer-paid benefits like health care contributions. How much you may be entitled to is a rather complex calculation, but there is a helpful calculator tool on the Washington Labor and Industries website here.

The factors and process aren’t the same as showing entitlement to time loss (see our blog Injured at Work? Don’t Let Lost Time Keep You From Time Loss), but they share some similarities. For example, you can’t use LEP to make more money than you earned on time loss alone, or when working before your injury. It also depends on how many hours you can work and what your employer offers. 

If you’re particularly interested in a confusing read (haha), check out the Loss of Earning Power Compensation section of the Claims Adjudication Guidelines. If you have returned to work after an injury in a manner less than what you could before you were hurt, you should ask your claim manager about LEP or call an attorney for help. If you’re unsure of whether this applies to your claim, the following are a few factors that may indicate eligibility:

As listed in the Claims Adjudication Guidelines, the worker may be entitled to LEP if they:

  • Return to work at a lower wage.  
  • Had more than one job at the time of injury and was restricted from performing one of the jobs, even if it was not the job of injury.  
  • Return to work but cannot work at the premium or higher rates they usually work.  
  • Return to work at regular wage but fewer hours. This includes workers who return to full-time, i.e., 40 hours per week, but before their injury or occupational disease. (Exception: This does not apply if the employer no longer offers overtime work to any employees.)

How do you apply for LEP?

LEP payments can be immensely important during transition periods for injured workers. This is especially true when your employer finds ways to get you back to work for a lower wage (or with fewer hours) than you had before your injury.

You can start by looking at LNI’s Application for LEP Compensation, but the best way to cut to the chase and find out if you’re eligible is to call your claim manager. Call an attorney if you get an answer that doesn’t seem right.

Workers’ compensation lawyers and your LEP benefit

The complexity and a general lack of knowledge about Loss of Earning Power keep many injured workers in the dark about this benefit. It’s often not something that claims managers mention to claimants when transitioning to light or modified duty work. And, it seems like when it is initiated, the computations aren’t completed correctly and injured workers get the short end of the stick.

If you’ve been receiving TTD or “time loss” payments but you’ve been returned to work on a light or modified duty basis and your payments have stopped or will be stopping soon, schedule a free consultation with a workers’ compensation attorney. Prefer a chat instead? Call Carlisle + Byers at (509) 228-7011

Don’t hesitate to explore your options and advocate for your rights regarding LEP compensation.