Court Rules OK Workers Compensation Laws UnconstitutionalMarch 9, 2016
The Oklahoma Supreme Court recently ruled that at least two provisions in the state’s revised workers compensation law violated workers’ constitutional rights. The justices ruled that a provision that allowed workers to file for workers compensation only after completing six months on the job was unconstitutional. The court also overturned a clause that allowed employers to “opt out” of the state’s workers compensation program if they did not follow the state’s guidelines for injuries covered under their own private insurance.
Details of the Workers Compensation Laws
The revisions to the state’s workers compensation came in 2013, when a Republican-led House of Representatives sought to curb what they viewed as overzealous lawsuits brought by injured workers and their attorneys. The revisions included a clause in which the workers compensation insurance payments were limited to 70 percent of the average workers’ wage, which equates to about $550 per week, regardless of the workers’ original salary. The 2013 law also limited disability payments to two years, down from three years under the original program.
Supreme Court: Workers Compensation System “Off-Kilter”
The court heard a case in which an injured worker had their workers compensation claim denied. The worker suffered the injury after working 120 days, 60 days shy of the requirement under the new law. Justice Tom Colbert wrote in his decision, “The balance is now off-kilter and has become one-sided to benefit the employer.” The justices also ruled that the laws that forced workers to pursue funds through the state’s workers compensation system, rather than through lawsuits, denied them the rights to due process under the law.
State Workers Compensation Commission Speaks Out
The commission in charge of overseeing Oklahoma’s workers compensation system also spoke out on the unfairness of the new laws. The commission observed that the law allowed companies to “opt out” of the state’s workers compensation program, while also allowing them to define what they view as an injury deserving of compensation. The report stated that the law resulted in a “dual system” that created “unequal treatment” and revoked many of the vital aspects of the workers compensation system.
Attorney Attacks Workers Compensation Reform
An Oklahoma City attorney spoke to reporters about how the changes in the state’s workers compensation laws have affected employees. He said that the changes in the law “put 100 percent of the reductions on the back of the worker.” He also told local media outlets that he has more than a dozen cases pending to challenge the current workers compensation structure, including a clause that denies benefits to workers who suffer heart attacks and strokes.
Know Your Rights in a Workers Compensation Lawsuit
To find out how we can help you with a workers compensation lawsuit, contact us today at 877-892-2797. Our friendly staff will ask a few questions about your case and connect you to a workers compensation lawsuit attorney. You can also fill out the “Confidential Evaluation” form at the top of this page.
NOTE: This blog post is a news story and does not constitute and endorsement of the Amaro Law Firm by any parties mentioned herein.