In Oklahoma, the Supreme Court is deciding whether or not Oklahoma’s new workers’ compensation law is unconstitutional.
The new law, which was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin in May of this year, changes our state’s workers’ compensation policies from a court-based system to an administrative system. What this means is that a worker who is injured on the job must now go through an administrative system that will dictate his or her compensation, but also what kind of care this worker can have.
This is unconstitutional, and should be struck down immediately. The changes to Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation policies promise to reduce the workers’ compensation costs to businesses. Any of the cost savings, in my opinion, would come at the expense of workers who were injured on the job.
Thankfully, not all Oklahoma legislators are behind this law. A lawsuit was filed earlier this year by two legislators and the Professional Firefighters of Oklahoma president Rick Beams. They too are concerned about the Constitutional legality of this law.
Firstly, the lawsuit claims that this law has a provision that denies treatment and compensation to workers under “certain” circumstances. Supporters of this law says that provision simply means that an injured worker would have to go through the administrative process first before being able to turn to the courts for justice.
Here are my concerns. First, this new workers’ comp law gives unconstitutional powers to the legislature. They decided that Oklahoma will only use the American Medical Association guides and Work Loss Data Institute Official Disability Guidelines in workers’ compensation cases. Why is this bad? Because it is an unconstitutional delegation of legislative powers.
Secondly, a section of this law allows some employers to opt out of the system and offer their own workers’ compensation packages with no regard to whether or not the worker agrees. This law restricts a workers’ access to the courts – to the right to a jury trial – and that in itself is unconstitutional. The Oklahoma Constitution gives everyone the right to be in court and to have a speedy decision.
Okay, we all know I’m an attorney, so this next part may seem self-serving, but it’s also a disturbing facet of the new law. It restricts attorneys’ fees as well.
We are keeping a close eye on what the Oklahoma Supreme Court decides, and we certainly hope they will rule in favor of those fighting this unconstitutional law. You, as a worker, have the right to access the courts, to seek compensation and treatment for injuries obtained on the job and to have access to a workers’ compensation system.
Don’t let the authors and supporters of this law – namely the State Chamber of Commerce which represents businesses, not employees – trick you into thinking this law is good for our state. It’s not.
If you have more questions or need help with your workers’ comp case, visit our workers compensation lawyer page and then call us today at (405) 703-4567.