Workers' Compensation -
VR Participants in a
Work Experience Setting

Governor Signs into Law Workers’ Compensation Bill
for Persons with Disabilities

On March 21, 2018, Governor Rick Scott signed into law HB 1437 (Ch. 2018-72, L.O.F.) relating to “Employment Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.” The bill takes effect July 1, 2018, and requires that participants in an adult or youth work experience activity under either the Florida Department of Education’s Division of Blind Services (DBS) or Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) be deemed employees of the state for the purpose of workers’ compensation coverage. Simply put, VR and DBS will be responsible for paying claims for these individuals, should they occur, rather than the employer.

Currently, DBS and VR participants who are in an adult or youth work experience activity must rely upon the employer to pay for their workers’ compensation (WC) coverage. This is often a deterrent to employment, since there is a perception that individuals with disabilities are more likely to have a work-related accident that will drive the employer’s WC premium up. Additionally, youth, with or without disabilities, are perceived to create risk for on-the-job injuries.

The new law mirrors section 445.009(11), Florida Statutes, and expands work experience opportunities for individuals with disabilities working with VR or DBS. This will greatly enhance these participants’ ability to obtain gainful employment and live successful, independent lives.

The passage of HB 1437 is important legislation for individuals with disabilities in Florida who want to expand their resume and skills through work experience and on-the-job training and ultimately obtain employment. While Workers’ Compensation rates are not based on demographics of the employee, this safety net is created to encourage more employers to provide very qualified candidates a chance to grow and increase their job skills.

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is a federal-state program that helps people who have physical or mental disabilities get or keep a job. VR is committed to helping people with disabilities find meaningful careers and further their independence. The Florida Division of Blind Services ensures blind and visually impaired Floridians have the tools, support and opportunity to achieve success. Services include Employer Services, the Braille and Talking Books Library, and the Business Enterprise Program and cover all ages from babies to senior citizens

If your business would like to participate as a work experience site, please contact the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation at VRBusinessRep@vr.fldoe.org or the Division of Blind Services at Stacy.Smith@dbs.fldoe.org. To learn more about VR programs and services visit www.rehabworks.org and for DBS dbs.myflorida.com.