Oklahoma court rules on injured worker laws

The Oklahoma Supreme Court's recent ruling that the law allowing employers to determine how to provide care for injured workers was unconstitutional is a "significant setback" for the national campaign pushing to have similar laws enacted across the country.

In 2013, employers in Oklahoma were given the opportunity to create their own plans, as opposed to being part of the Oklahoma workers' compensation system. As a result, these companies were required to set guidelines as to the types of injuries to cover, how workers would be compensated, how to deal with disputes and more.

As a result of this change in Oklahoma, many other states, backed by some of the country's largest companies, got on board with the idea.

However, things began to fall apart soon enough. In 2015, for example, an NPR investigation found that company governed plans typically had more restrictions and lower benefits than the state's system.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court's decision means that Texas is the only state remaining that allows companies to opt against purchasing workers' compensation insurance.

The Supreme Court's case was over a a Dillard's employee who injured her neck and shoulder while moving shoe boxes. The company had opted out of the state's workers' compensation system to create its own plan. While the employee's initial medical care was covered, her claims were later denied. The company stated that her remaining injuries were due to a pre-existing condition.

Opponents of this law believed that injured workers would have been deprived in regards to compensation and medical treatment. One attorney stated in an email that the opt-out law "would have deprived injured workers out of necessary surgeries and weekly benefits. Opt out also would have allowed companies to shift the cost of paying for work-related injuries to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security."

Thanks to the recent 7-2 ruling, all employers in Oklahoma are once again required to use the state's workers' compensation system.

In the past, an injured worker may have been confused as to which steps he or she could take to receive benefits. Now, thanks to this ruling, things should go back to normal in regards to making a claim and receiving compensation in a timely manner.

Source: NPR, "Companies Can't Set Own Rules For Injured Workers, Okla. Court Says," accessed Sep. 20, 2016

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