Helping employees get back to work 

King County’s Return-to-Work (RTW) Program assists employees who have been injured or ill transition back into the workforce, a program that benefits both employees and the County.

“This year I’m looking to place two employees with temporary medical restrictions in Renton with the Elections team during their upcoming busy election schedule,” said Jamie Christensen, Disability Services Consultant with King County’s Disability Services, Leaves and Supported Employment section in the Department of Human Resources. “If I can find employees for departments requesting transitional duty workers, then that’s interviews that departments don’t need to do and it saves the County money while also giving the ill or injured employee the opportunity to learn transferable skills and stay connected with King County.”

RTW Graphs

Pictured: This image is from the 2017 Disability Services Annual Report, page 6.

The program placed a total of 147 employees into a transitional duty assignment in 2017. Some 130 of those placed employees, or 84%, returned to working full duty in their regular positions after working in a transitional duty assignment. This year the program has already placed 131 employees into transitional duty assignments. According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine returning to work improves lower back pain and functional recovery. “Workplace support, particularly efforts to offer and coordinate temporary job modifications, has been shown to facilitate an early RTW.” Therefore, returning to work early should be encouraged, not only to reduce long-term disability but also to improve health recovery.

“The RTW program has helped me stay mobile and productive,” said Zeola Beasley, who regularly works as a Transit Operator, but has been working transitional duty while she recovers from her injury. “The site supervisors have been very accommodating, ensuring that if my injury is aggravated to let them know. They were happy to have someone fill the assignment even temporarily. I had the ability of utilizing the equipment to fit my needs I was able to work at my pace.”

There are many benefits of the RTW Program for King County employees while working a temporary duty assignment including: earning sick/vacation time, saving their protective leave entitlements if working full-time, employees return to work faster than if not placed, they pay into retirement, obtain a sense of worth, and gain transferrable skills and experiences that can be used if returning to their regular position is not possible.

“I was transitioned to the Office of Executive Dow Constantine, as a Front Desk Clerk,” said Zeola. “I was trained in Excel and Outlook, answered phones, and greeted people as they had meetings with the different executives in the office. I will also be training the next person taking on this job. I love bringing a smile to everyone and making their visit to the office a memorable one.”

The Return-to-Work Program aligns with the Investing in YOU strategy to make King County a place where employees have the tools, support, and opportunity to do their best work.

If departments are interested assisting King County employees with returning to work and have transitional duty work need, they can reach out to Jamie Christensen for placement requests at JaChristensen@kingcounty.gov.