“The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” So said Hamlet about his dire life circumstances at the time. No doubt, the nation’s messed up politics are probably leaving some of you in a similarly depressed funk these days. So let us help! Here’s some good news to consider.
In the workers comp arena, ProPublica and NPR are reporting on a frankly extraordinary development in Oklahoma. The “business-friendly” Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission unanimously ruled that the state’s 2013 law to allow corporations to “’opt out’ of state workers’ compensation — and write their own plans for dealing with injured workers — was… unconstitutional”! It compared alleged “[c]ompany plans … to provide equal benefits to workers’ comp., ‘a water mirage on the highway that disappears upon closer inspection.’” Wow! In addition, the media outlets write,
[T] he U.S. Department of Labor said in a letter obtained Monday that it is evaluating whether opt-out plans in Texas and Oklahoma violate workers’ rights under federal law.
[I]n recent years, well-known corporations, led by Walmart and Lowe’s, have been pushing states to let them handle injuries themselves, arguing they can provide better care, higher wage benefits and a more efficient system if freed from the bureaucracy of state workers’ comp. In 2013, Oklahoma became the first state to pass a law allowing employers to opt out, joining Texas, which has never required businesses to have workers’ comp.…
Last year, the corporations’ offensive appeared to be gaining steam. Tennessee and South Carolina were seriously considering bills. A national campaign drew support from Nordstrom, Whole Foods, Macy’s, Sysco and Safeway, among others. And supporters said they planned to get laws passed in as many as a dozen states within the next decade.
But months after the ProPublica and NPR story, which was republished in several news outlets, the movement appears stalled. …
Bob Burke, a workers’ comp attorney who has filed 17 cases challenging the law, said the decision will “put a cold, wet rag” on the opt-out movement.
Here’s some of what commission said about these plans:
They “give employers significant power to deny claims by letting them define what constitutes a workplace injury. For example, workers sickened by asbestos can generally receive workers’ comp. But most opt-out plans in Oklahoma specifically exclude asbestos exposure from coverage.…
Rather than creating a more efficient process for handling disputes, the system developed by the plans adds several layers that may actually make the process longer.…
Businesses are now challenging the commission authority to strike down this law. And they are appealing to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. So it's not all good news yet.
Speaking of courts, on the SCOTUS front (and perhaps a sign of things to come):
The Supreme Court on Monday rejected Wal-Mart's bid to overturn a federal appeals court decision allowing female workers to sue the retail giant for paying women less and giving them fewer promotions than men.
The court's decision not to take the case leaves intact a 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that found former members of the landmark Dukes v. Wal-Mart class action did not miss the deadline to bring their gender discrimination claims on a regional basis after the Supreme Court rejected the nationwide class in 2011.
Finally in Indiana, some state lawmakers are trying to do a very small thing for patients by raising Indiana’s cap on compensation for victims of medical malpractice damages. But barely. As we’ve noted before, Indiana has a draconian compensation cap on all damages, including economic costs, lost wages, medical expenses, etc. It is, clearly, among the “lowest in the nation.” So now,
[L]awmakers are considering a $400,000 increase to the cap to set a new limit for those claims at $1.65 million beginning in 2017. The cap also would increase over time to $2.25 million by 2031 in an attempt to keep up with inflation – an aspect of the proposal strongly opposed by doctors and some medical lobbyists.
Wow, the cruelty of Indiana doctors apparently knows no bounds.
Dan Ladendorf, a representative of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association, said the group doesn’t believe in capping damages and questioned the proposed $1.65 million limit. If Indiana’s cap was based on a medical cost index, it would exceed $2.2 million, he said.
“Even with these proposed changes, the opponents to this bill have told you Indiana would still be the most favorable state in the nation for medical malpractice,” he argued. “If you are going to commit medical malpractice, come to Indiana, because we’re the most favorable state in the nation.”
Well, we tried. So much for good news, I guess!