Governor’s Group to Discuss Responses to the Supreme Court’s Decision on Injured Workers…

Author Subject: Governor’s Group to Discuss Responses to the Supreme Court’s Decision on Injured Workers…
Webmaster Posted At 23:39:02 05/23/2001
At the request of Governor John Kitzhaber and Senate President Gene Derfler, the labor-management group that fashioned the workers comp reform package now known as SB 485 will reconvene to review options for responding to the Supreme Court’s Smothers decision. That decision affirmed the constitutional right of injured workers to seek compensation from negligent employers when they fail to qualify for workers compensation benefits.

Aside from amending the state constitution to take back what the court just clarified is a worker’s right to sue for remedies for work-related injuries in certain circumstances (a clear non-starter from our point of view), the options that the Workers Compensation Division have outlined for consideration include:

Doing nothing, leaving injured workers with the right to sue in cases where they were denied workers comp benefits and they allege negligence by their employers;

Change the compensability standards of the workers comp system to cover more claims from injured workers, leaving fewer cases that give rise to a right to sue; or,

Establish some form of lesser benefits for workers who can prove some job-related cause for their injuries but fail to meet the “major contributing cause” standard for benefits.

The last option, which amounts to a two-tiered workers comp system, was rejected out of hand by the United Labor Lobby today.

Labor’s representatives on the Governor’s group are Tim Nesbitt (Oregon AFL-CIO), Bob Shiprack (Oregon State Building Trades Council) and Ken Allen (Oregon AFSCME). The full labor-management group is scheduled to meet Friday morning, with a recommendation expected within two weeks. Meanwhile, SB 485 is on hold, and potentially held hostage for what employers are now calling a “Smothers fix.”

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