By Samuel H. Pond, Managing Partner
There is an ongoing attack on workers’ compensation in this country, and we at Pond Lehocky are frankly outraged. Over the past decade, several states have passed anti-worker laws that limit compensation benefits or discourage employees from even applying. See more about what is happening to injured workers in states like Texas here.
When you file for workers’ compensation, you are using a time-honored protection for injured workers that has been in place for 100 years. The Workers’ Compensation Act, or the “The Grand Bargain,” means that employees gave up their constitutional right to sue if injured on the job. Let me repeat for emphasis – injured workers gave up a constitutional right. In exchange, employers agreed to guarantee the coverage of lost wages and medical benefits when one of their workers suffers an injury.
But in recent years, numerous state legislatures have been chipping away at that tradeoff, bowing to pressure from powerful insurance companies and big corporations concerned more with cost cutting than with human lives.
Here are some alarming facts from a recent symposium I attended on “The Demise of the Grand Bargain: Compensation for Injured Workers in the 21st Century” at the Rutgers Law School Center for Risk and Responsibility:
- Coverage “opt-outs” in some states let businesses write their own workers’ compensation plans, sidestepping state requirements.
- States compete for the lowest workers’ compensation insurance costs possible, causing benefits to go into a rapid downward spiral.
- Fifteen states have instituted a “dual denial provision,” meaning that injured workers who are denied workers’ compensation cannot sue their employers, and have nowhere to turn.
- The length of time a worker can collect benefits is being cut back, meaning workers with longer-term injuries are left without resources vital to their recovery, such as ongoing medical care.
- Workers are required to meet a higher burden of proof that their job caused their illness or injury, which violates the longstanding no-fault system of the Workers’ Compensation Act.
- Many injured workers don’t even apply for workers’ compensation because they’re worried about retaliation from their boss, or stigmatization by co-workers – both of which are illegal.
- Many injured workers are led to believe they have no claim because of a pre-existing condition, when in fact they do.
While “The Grand Bargain” is under attack, I want you to know that we at Pond Lehocky Stern Giordano are keeping a close eye on changes in workers’ compensation laws and policies across America. We are all affected by these outrageous abuses of the law.
We’re advocating to preserve fair and equitable workers’ compensation for you. We support proposals that establish minimum federal standards for medical benefits and impose fines on those who exploit the system to deny injured workers access to their rights.
We will never stop fighting for you. And you can join us. Make your voice heard by contacting your local state and federal representatives and demanding that they protect your rights. Together, we will prevail.