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November 25, 2015

What Does it Mean for Workers when Business Opt Out of Workers’ Comp?

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Posted in News and Events

What would this country look like if there were no Workers’ Compensation laws? What if injured workers were told where to seek medical care and how often by their employers? What if injured workers also were not compensated for their time away from work or had to pay for all of their medical bills?

In states like Texas and Oklahoma, where some businesses are opting out of Workers’ Comp, this is actually the case. Some of America’s largest corporations, such as McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Sears, and Costco have plans in place for their employees that look very different than Workers’ Comp.

“Unlike traditional workers’ comp, which guarantees lifetime medical care, the Texas plans cut off treatment after about two years. They don’t pay compensation for most permanent disabilities and strictly limit payouts for deaths and catastrophic injuries… The list of what the plans don’t cover runs for pages,” a recent article on the matter by ProPublica and NPR says. On NPR’s Morning Edition story, host Howard Berkes said, “Payments are smaller, they’re cut off far sooner, fewer injuries are covered, and strict rules can leave [workers] without any benefits at all.”

Before Workers’ Compensation law, workers had to sue their employers to receive help with medical costs after an injury at work. Today, when employers opt out of Workers’ Comp, many employees have to do the same thing workers did over 100 years ago, before they were protected by the law.

According to the ProPublica article, states like Tennessee and South Carolina have considered opting out as well. While this movement to leave Workers’ Comp behind certainly benefits the employers, trial lawyers, and insurance companies, it is seriously detrimental to workers.

“Those opt-out states require injured workers to file civil suits which is costly, time consuming, and dissuades them from pursuing their case. Rights get trampled, and people do not get treatment or benefits paid. The opt-out concept is totally slanted to the employer and insurance industry,” said David Turim.

We believe that employees deserve to be protected and compensated when injured in their workplace. If you have been injured at work, please do not hesitate to contact us.

To learn more, check out the ProPublica and NPR article here. Listen to Howard Berkes’ NPR story on the matter here.

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