Workers’ compensation laws under threat in many states: Part I

Oct 17 2015

Most people don’t realize that workers’ compensation in the United States has only been around for about 100 years. Major industrial accidents and devastating fires at the beginning of the 20th century led workers and activists to demand safer workplaces and compensation for on-the-job injuries.

Since then, the workers’ compensation systems set up in states across America have been an invaluable resource for injured workers and their families. Are these systems perfect? No. But most would agree that they are far superior to what employees faced before workers’ compensation came along.

Sadly, major corporations now seem to be in collusion with legislators in various states to do away with important workers’ compensation protections. The goal in most cases is to opt out of state workers’ compensation laws and draft their own plans instead. This is according to an in-depth investigation by ProPublica and National Public Radio.

One of the masterminds behind this plan is a Texas lawyer named Bill Minick. He brazenly asserts that custom-designed compensation plans are better for both companies and workers. There’s no doubt that companies are saving a lot of money by opting out and crafting their own plans. But there seems to be no evidence that employees are benefitting, and overwhelming evidence that these plans are making it much more difficult for injured workers to receive compensation. Those who are lucky enough to qualify may notice that their benefits are far lower than what they would be under state workers’ compensation laws.

So far, Texas and Oklahoma are the only states where employers are allowed to simply opt out of standard workers’ compensation plans. But Minick is working to change laws in about a dozen other states, and he has the backing of major national retailers like Walmart, Nordstrom and Lowe’s.

It’s not clear whether workers’ compensation is under attack here in Colorado. But if this movement is allowed to continue and expand, it will undoubtedly reach our state eventually.

Please check back next week as we continue our discussion on this important topic.