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Like most of you, I get a lot of articles and information about workers' comp across my desk via email, direct mail, from other associations or through our listserv.
One such article caught my eye as I had just accepted an invitation to speak at Workers' Voice, a state/fed AFL-CIO conference in Chicago. My topic was The Status of Workers' Compensation in the United States, a white paper WILG (and largely Chuck Davoli and Bob Burke) put together earlier this year.
The title of the article, published by an organization called Illinois Policy, is "An Illinois Workers' Compensation System for the 21st Century". (https://www.illinoispolicy.org/reports/).
Although written for Illinois policymakers, it is worth downloading and reading. In it, the author Mark Adams, traces the history of workers' compensation, discusses the Grand Bargain and summarizes the changing economy, workforce and society in 21st century America. In so doing, he attempts to make the case that an early 20th-century insurance model; state based, compulsory, workers compensation can no longer meet the needs of our changed economic landscape. The article's premise is abolishing workers' compensation or creating a "simple" opt out is the best way to cure the ills of a flawed, obsolete workers' compensation system.
It is disturbing reading. I predict its premise will dictate future Opt Out initiatives.
WILG, among others, has done yeoman's work in presenting compelling arguments against Opt Out, particularly through the efforts of member Bob Burke of Oklahoma who has led the charge in all but killing Opt Out in Oklahoma (pending a decision of the Oklahoma Supreme Court in the upcoming months). The uncertain legal status of the Oklahoma statute has in large part stalled or derailed legislation in other states, particularly in Tennessee and South Carolina.
Our WILG Opt Out Taskforce, chaired by Malcolm Crossland of South Carolina, continues to meet telephonically gathering information to assist in this ongoing battle. As such,we can ill afford to believe that Opt Out will fail of its own deficiencies.
The Oklahoma Opt Out statute is an inviting target for criticism; especially in the almost Draconian restrictive provisions Burke uncovered through discovery. The Oklahoma Industrial Commission referred to them as like "a water mirage on the highway that disappears upon closer inspection.".
We must remain aware that the Opt Out proponents are learning from their experience in Oklahoma. Like a virus that becomes resistant to an anti-viral drug, as the Courts have their say in analyzing a particular Opt Out program, we can expect our opponents to learn from whatever criticisms doom their current model. The virus will adapt accordingly.
Adams in his piece makes a superficially compelling case that eliminating legal barriers that stand in the way of innovation (i.e.Opt Out) will benefit, not harm, workers.
His closing sentence sums it up:
"The most effective way for government to protect workers is not by a restrictive one-size-fits-all system [work comp] but by [employers] creating broad rules of the game that give workers more freedom to contract with employers for a deal that is better suited to their own situation."
If you believe that allowing employers to create new ''rules of the game" that will benefit our clients, then, I have a bridge to sell you.
The Demise of the Grand Bargain
Compensation for Injured Workers in the 21st Century.
An Academic Symposium Cosponsored
by: Pound Civil Justice Institute. Rutgers Center for Risk & Responsibility, Northeastern University School of Law.
Sept 23,2016 9AM-4PM Rutgers Law School
Click here for information & to register:http://www.wilg.org/docDownload/710278
Coal company CEO's misdemeanor conviction after a disaster that killed 29 miners is a "perversion of justice," says victim's sister
In 1911, the U.S. created the first state-based workers’ compensation laws as a legislative solution between labor and management. In this “grand bargain,” employers provide compensation to employees injured on the job and in exchange employees don’t sue the employers for negligence. The current case of Stahl v. Hialeah Hospital questions whether Florida’s compensation laws still provide adequate remuneration to injured workers. What could this case really mean for Florida’s state legislature?
In this episode of Workers Comp Matters, Alan Pierce interviews Mark Zientz, claimants’ attorney for Stahl v. Hialeah, about the history of state workers’ compensation laws, legislative changes made in the 1970s, and the potential ramifications of three Florida cases pending at the appellate level. Together, they discuss contributory negligence vs. comparative negligence states and the creation of an OSHA commission to study the adequacy of workers’ compensation laws in the 1970s. Pierce and Zientz then move on to current cases in Florida, including Westphal v. St. Petersburg, Castellanos v. Next Door Company, and Stahl v. Hialeah Hospital. These cases question whether the compensation system is still an adequate replacement for the tort system which it supplanted. In other words, is workers’ compensation in Florida no longer constitutional?
20th Anniversary Video – Long Version (featuring all past presidents & chairs)
WILG Testimonial Videos
Over the past decade, states have slashed workers’ compensation benefits, denying injured workers help when they need it most and shifting the costs of workplace accidents to taxpayers.
Part 1 of ProPublica Article Here
Part 2 - How Much Is Your Arm Worth
Part 3 - Injured Workers Share Stories of Harm
On Tuesday, 5/5, the Illinois House convened a committee of the whole for a hearing on work comp. An injured worker from Oklahoma, who was featured in a previous ProPublica piece, provided testimony. Here's an article in response to the hearing:
Dr. Joel Morton's WorkCompWire Article
Every day brings another headline about a fatal overdose on painkillers, a celebrity who’s hooked, or a serious crime driven by addiction. Sadly, injured workers are among those addicted. Since 1990, opioid overdose deaths have tripled. It’s easy to blame doctors who prescribe painkillers, but only 17 percent of abused opioids are abused by legitimate patients with legitimate prescriptions. Physicians are doing their best, trying to treat pain without withholding needed medications, but that only helps so much.
Dr. Joel Morton of Summit Pharmacy takes a closer look at the issue and in the following article discusses a few policy changes that could go a long way to stem opioid abuse:
Alan S. Pierce
Immediate Past President
Matthew J. Belcher