Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Affairs and Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Peter Kobrak

Second Advisor

Dr. Lyke Thompson

Third Advisor

Dr. Barbara Rider


In an effort to control rising Worker's Compensation costs and accommodate disabled employees, the State of Michigan initiated an "Early Return to Duty" policy which encourages injured workers to return to work prior to being fully recuperated. During the recovery period, injured workers are assigned restricted duties consistent with their medical limitation.

Despite legislative and administrative mandates, the Early Return policy has not been fully implemented by all departments within Michigan Civil Service. The lack of uniform acceptance and application of the policy presents serious complications for managing resources effectively and has a direct bearing on achieving expected policy outcomes.

Guided by hypotheses derived from policy implementation theory, an exploratory research design was utilized to collect and analyze data from four selected departments within Michigan Civil Service: Corrections, Mental Health, Natural Resources, and Transportation. Data utilized for analysis were compiled from Worker's Compensation records and research questionnaires completed by first-line supervisors and second-line administrators. Supplemental data were collected by interviewing policymakers.

Three types of policy implementation were observed. Corrections and Mental Health implemented Early Return in a formal "top-down" manner. Natural Resources used an informal "bottom-up" approach. / Transportation had a policy prohibiting Early Return but allowed it info rm ally. A comparison o f the formal and informal systems revealed that a variety of policy implementation strategies can produce the intended outcomes of the Early Return policy. The use of Early Return, whether formal or informal, affects Worker's Compensation expenditures.

There was an observed relationship between the use of Early Return and certain research variables. Early Return was more likely to be implemented by supervisors who personally endorsed the policy, perceived that they had discretion in being able to implement the policy, and considered the policy environment conducive to implementation.

The nature of the job and the composition of the workforce also were related to implementation of Early Return. The easier it seemed to modify jobs, the more likely it was that Early Return would be utilized.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access