Possible changes ahead in workers’ compensation law

Feb 28 2017

With a new administration in the White House, employees in Colorado and throughout the country may face a number of changes in workers’ compensation laws in 2017 and beyond. While it is not yet clear what effect the Trump administration will have on employees, there are certain parts of the law that are more likely to be changed than others.

Change may also occur at the state level, where Republicans control nearly 70 percent of partisan state legislative chambers. Colorado’s legislature splits between the Democratic and Republican parties, so changes may not be as likely as in states that are under single party control.

Possible Upcoming Workers’ Comp Issues

Whether change is spurred at the state or federal level it is important to note that issues such as those outlined below could be discussed in the next four years.

Uniform minimum standards for workers’ comp: The U.S. Department of Labor has recommended an overhaul of state workers’ compensation so that there will be a minimum, uniform set of standards that all states must meet. But with an administration in place that favors less involvement by the government, this dramatic level of change remains unlikely, though possible.

Marijuana-related issues: The legalization of marijuana at the state level, while still being illegal at the federal level, might cause changes as well. While it remains unlikely that marijuana’s federal classification will change under the Trump administration, some states have decided that medical marijuana can be workers’ comp benefit (Colorado has not yet approved this). There is also the issue of impairment at the time of an injury, and whether that can diminish or eliminate worker’s comp benefits.

Constitutional challenges: In recent years, at least five state supreme courts have found aspects of their states’ workers’ comp laws to be unconstitutional. Should these disputes ever move through the court system and reach the Supreme Court of the United States, the presences or lack of a Trump-appointed judge could determine how these cases are resolved.

Due to outdated regulations, one thing that may not change is the amount of litigation that arises when an individual makes a claim regarding an occupational disease.

Why Workers’ Comp Matters, And What You Can Do If You’re Hurt

Workers’ compensation can be critical for employees and their families who require medical care and need to recoup lost wages if they cannot work temporarily or permanently. However, it can be challenging for both employers and employees to keep current with workers’ compensation laws.

Individuals who are injured or become ill on the job should speak with an attorney about their rights and the current regulations. Some employers might also try to discourage workers from pursuing compensation, but retaliation against an employee who has filed for workers’ compensation is not permitted.