Bowen McKenzie Bowen LLC

Companies can't make their own workers' comp rules

In the United States, one of the rights that employees are entitled to is the ability to seek compensation after an on-the-job injury. Unfortunately, many are expressing concern over the vanishing worker protections in the United States, and it's not hard to see why. In Oklahoma, companies were essentially allowed to set their own rules for dealing with injured workers. Unsurprisingly, Oklahoma companies took advantage of this law by placing more restrictions on workers' compensation. 

Law allowed companies to opt out of workers' comp system

In Oklahoma, a law allowed companies to opt out of the workers' compensation system and establish their own rules. In general, the rules established by the companies would have greater restrictions on who qualified for workers' comp. The rules also reduced the benefits received by employees who did meet the more stringent requirements for workers' comp. Recently, the Oklahoma Supreme Court deemed the law unconstitutional. Now, Texas is the only state in America that allows companies to legally opt of the a state-run system for workers' compensation.

This Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling against the 2013 legislation was certainly a major setback for a national campaign that aims to revise state laws and permit businesses to determine how they care for and aid their injured employees. The statue deemed unconstitutional by the Oklahoma Supreme Court had been backed by companies in the oil and gas industry and the retailer Hobby Lobby.

A coalition led by Lowe's, Wal-Mart, and some of the largest health care, retail, and trucking companies in the nation worked to have similar statues passed across the United States. Draft proposals and bills have been written in South Carolina, as well as Georgia, Tennessee, West Virginia, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

Last year, the NPR and ProPublica conducted an investigation about the effect of this statue in Oklahoma. The study concluded that the plans created by companies often had more restrictions and lower benefits than state-run workers' comp.

Results of investigation were not surprising

Few were surprised by the results of this investigation conducted by NPR and ProPublica, as workers' comp was designed to provide lost wages and medical care to injured workers and to protect business from frequent lawsuits. Of course, businesses won't want to dismantle workers' comp in hopes of providing more benefits to injured employees and placing fewer restrictions. Rather, businesses hope to save money.

Hopefully, for the sake of employees across the nation, the recent ruling of Oklahoma's Supreme Court will initiate the reversal of the trend supporting the reduction of worker protections in the United States.

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Defending Liberty Pursuing Justice The American Trial Lawyers Association Best Lawyers Injured Workers' Advocates South Carolina Association For Justice South Carolina Bar Law Association

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