Workers’ compensation was created to protect employees who have been hurt on the job as well as their employers. If employees are injured while at work, the employees cannot sue the employer. In return, workers’ compensation benefits provide injured employees with the money needed to cover any medical costs and to ensure that the employees can continue to provide for themselves and their families.
However, many states have passed legislation with loopholes that allow employers and their insurance companies to deny workers’ compensation claims, making it increasingly more difficult for employees to get the compensation and benefits they deserve.
Some states have opt-out plans, which allow employers to offer alternatives to workers’ compensation. These plans usually cost employers much less than workers’ compensation plans, but cost employees much more in the long run. With an opt-out plan, injured workers may find that their claims are denied because they didn’t report an injury by the end of their shift, or they reported it more than 24 hours after the injury occurred. This can make it extremely difficult to file a claim if the injury was severe enough to require immediate hospitalization or major surgery that prevented the employee from using the phone.
The need for federal regulations
The Department of Labor has done an extensive review of the workers’ compensation systems in every state. They have concluded that in a “race to the bottom,” injured workers in many states are denied necessary surgeries and sometimes forced into poverty, or at least near-poverty. This report has been published on the heels of the latest round of court battles finding that state opt-out systems for workers’ compensation are unconstitutional.
The Department of Labor also suggests “the establishment of standards that would trigger increased federal oversight if workers’ compensation programs fail to meet those standards.” This is a significant change in course for the federal government, which to this point had taken a hands-off approach to the state’s workers’ compensation systems.
But after a series of ProPublica/NPR articles, congressional leaders began to call on the Department of Labor to review the compensation programs across the U.S. Their report highlights inconsistencies, where the loss of a body part is worth one amount in one state but significantly less in another state. Further, the report highlights how injured workers, who were not at fault for their injury, are pushed into poverty due to administrative policies of the state’s workers’ compensation departments. Due to this, the Department of Labor is suggesting minimum coverage despite the historical delegation of power to the states.
The formation of federal minimums and possible federal oversight is expected to have significant pushback from not only the states but also the business community. Not surprising, as it was the business community that has been lobbying for the opt-out plans for workers’ compensation systems.
Level the playing field with NLE
Every state has different workers’ compensation policies and legislation, and more and more have passed laws that make it nearly impossible for injured workers to get the benefits they need and deserve. That’s why you need a dedicated lawyer on your side who has a thorough knowledge of workers’ compensation laws, and who will stay on top of any new federal regulations that are implemented nationwide. Our lawyers know how to get results and we will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.