If you get hurt on the job, workers’ compensation is supposed to provide the resources you need to pay your medical bills and other expenses associated with the injury. But now some large companies are pushing for legislation that would allow them to opt out of the workers’ compensation system entirely. According to an article in ProPublica, Walmart and Lowe’s are leading the charge, claiming that their own independent injury compensation systems provide better outcomes for injured workers while reducing costs and red tape for employers.
So far Oklahoma and Texas are the only states that allow employers to opt out of traditional workers’ compensation systems. And there is doubt over whether the systems these private companies put into place to replace workers’ compensation would help or hurt workers. The U.S. Department of Labor is investigating whether the opt-out plans in Texas and Oklahoma violate federal workers’ rights.
Already there are several ways in which the opt-out programs make it more difficult for workers to secure compensation for injuries, for example, by:
- Requiring injured workers to use only doctors approved by the company
- Requiring injured workers to report their injuries within a 24-hour period, as opposed to the 30-day window allowed by workers’ compensation
- Defining what kinds of injuries are and are not eligible for compensation. Asbestos injuries, for example, are not eligible under the opt-out plans, but they are eligible under traditional workers’ compensation
While such plans have not yet gained traction in Ohio, it will be interesting to watch what happens to the movement in other states. In the meantime, if you have suffered an injury at work and need to file (or appeal) a claim, contact a workers’ compensation attorney who can provide knowledgeable guidance about the process.