Efforts to further weaken protections for injured workers were thwarted recently in Oklahoma, where the state workers’ compensation commission and the Oklahoma Supreme Court in separate decisions declared the alternative compensation model unconstitutional.
This could signal a major turning point for a troubling trend that had been gaining steam in states across the country. Workers’ compensation is supposed to provide no-fault benefits to employees injured on-the-job, and in exchange, workers forfeit their right to sue. Most of these programs are state-run and provide medical coverage, rehabilitation services, reimbursement for lost wages and death benefits. It’s known as the “grand bargain.”
But in the last decade, these worker protections have been eroded bit by bit, state by state. One of the most significant changes in a number of states has been giving employers the right to “opt out” of the state-run workers’ compensation system, so long as they offer their own insurance plan. The catch for workers is that employers have enormous control over the doctors who review each case and which workers will receive benefits. Definitions of “disability” and “work injury” are also written by the insurer, resulting in fewer workers having access to benefits. Continue reading →