Washington Workers’ Compensation Protections Under Attack

Every year, several Washington state politicians try to eliminate certain workers’ compensation benefits and eligibility requirements. This year, that proposal thankfully failed. But the war on workers’ rights continues and people must continue to speak out against proposals that leave injured workers without protections when they need them most, according to Washington workers’ compensation lawyers at Aaron Engle Law.

“This attempt by certain politicians to dismantle Washington’s workers’ compensation program could have been devastating to workers and would have been a tremendous step backwards for hard-working people throughout our state,” NBLE attorney Elizabeth LePley said. “Thankfully, this proposal failed. Such proposals don’t solve any problems. They create them. And if it had become law, injured workers would have been the ones who suffered the most.”

Jeff Johnson, president of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, agreed. “This legislation stacks the deck against injured workers and their families just when they’re least able to stand up and defend themselves,” Johnson said in an article published in The Stand.

Proposed Changes

State Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, sponsored the proposed legislation aimed at dismantling Washington’s workers’ compensation system. If approved, Senate Bill 5822 (SB 5822) would have done away with many of the protections injured workers take for granted in Washington, according to The Stand.

Fortunately, proposed Senate Bill 5822 was killed last week. But it will likely be on the agenda during the state Senate’s next session. The proposed changes included:

  • Reducing the amount of time workers can file an occupational disease claim. Currently workers have 2 years. The proposed changes would reduce the statute of limitations to 1 year.
  • Making the deadline for filing an occupational disease claim earlier. Under the proposal, the deadline to file a claim would start at the earliest of the following dates:
    • Date of diagnosis or
    • Date worker first sought treatment
    • Date worker’s activities restricted
  • Increase amount of time employers have to approve or deny claims. Currently, companies must approve or deny a workers’ comp claim in 14 days. That deadline would be pushed back to 60 to 120 days. And if the worker’s claim is denied, that worker would have to pay back all the benefits.

Worker Protections

While Senate Bill 5822 no longer remains an immediate threat, another legislative proposal which would protect certain workers has been approved by the state House of Representatives and is working its way through the state Senate.

Washington House Bill 1723 (HB 1723) would offer additional protections to ill Hanford nuclear reservation workers and allow them easier access to workers’ compensation, according to the Yakima Herald.

In particular, “many conditions would be automatically assumed to be caused by working as little as one eight-hour shift anywhere on the site, instead of workers having to prove that a medical condition was caused by a specific exposure at Hanford” if House Bill 1723 became law, according to the Yakima Herald.

Why Workers’ Comp Matters

Many people might not understand why workers’ compensation benefits matter. Like many things in life, it’s easy to take workers’ compensation for granted – until you sustain a serious injury at work.

Workers’ compensation is a mandatory form of insurance which pays for medical expenses and lost income for most injured workers. Some employees in Washington are not covered by workers’ compensation. In such cases, they can often file a lawsuit against the negligent party to obtain financial compensation.

Workers’ compensation payments can be a lifeline for many injured workers. Without workers’ comp, many injured workers struggle financially. That’s not right. If someone gets hurt on the job, they should be fairly compensated during their recovery. Our workers’ compensation attorneys at Aaron Engle Law thoroughly understand how the system works and can answer any questions you have about your potential claim.