Returning to work after disability is a decision that workers make based on their ability to perform their job as well as economic and institutional factors. However, worker choices may also depend on employer decisions to accommodate and retain workers with health limitations. Recent estimates suggest that nearly half of workers who would benefit from accommodation do not receive it. While several studies have focused on financial incentives for workers to return to work, little is known about firm accommodation decisions, why workers do not receive needed accommodations, and what role employers may play in promoting accommodation and return to work. Our project examines the characteristics of workers and employers who participate in three unique accommodation programs in Oregon’s workers’ compensation system to address these open questions.
We will use detailed administrative data from Oregon on workers compensation claims, use of accommodation programs, and employment records. We will employ decomposition and machine-learning methods to estimate the extent to which variation in use of these programs can be explained by observable factors, and the extent to which unobserved barriers may affect employer and worker decisions to pursue workplace accommodation after disability. Our analyses will be informative for SSA by identifying potential barriers to provision of accommodation as well as potential underserved types of workers. This will allow policymakers to develop strategies to increase accommodation and support return to work for individuals with disabilities facing the greatest challenges, as well as those with the highest potential, to return to work with accommodation.