Companies Seek to Sidestep Traditional Workers’ Comp Obligations

Is your right to workers compensation insurance if you’re injured on the job in danger?  They may indeed be, if the Texas-based Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation (ARAWC) gets its way. The ARAWC is a lobbying group organized by some of the largest corporations in the United States. McDonalds, Lowes, Walmart, Safeway, Nordstrom–these are just some of the companies that want to reduce their costs for workers’ compensation insurance, which they are obligated to provide, under state law, to cover their employees in case they are injured on the job.  

After the ARAWC helped write legislation in Tennessee, Richard Evans, the group’s executive director said the companies ultimately want to change workers’ comp laws in all 50 states: “Businesses can save millions of dollars by opting out and writing plans with narrow benefits, putting pressure on their competitors to do the same,” according to Mother Jones. States where ARAWC’s corporate members have major operations, including Georgia, are on the group’s shortlist.

Today, two states, Texas and Oklahoma, already allow employers to opt out of state-mandated workers’ comp. We have come a long way since the early 20th century, when workers’ comp laws were developed as a compromise between employees and employers. In exchange for the employer paying medical expenses and part of the wages of an employee injured at work, employees would give up their right to sue their employers for negligence. Since those beginnings, workers’ comp has paid claims without judgment of who–employer or employee–was at fault.

The ARAWC says its goal is “to advocate for better medical outcomes to injured workers and give employers a choice in how they will manage employee benefits.” Better medical outcomes? Employee groups see the lobbying effort as “a race to the bottom,” a return to the system of 100 years ago, when workers had to sue their employers or bear the costs of work-related injuries themselves. “They have a lot of nerve, the Richard Evanses of the world, saying that they’re doing this for the worker,” said Rick Levy, legal director for the Texas AFL-CIO.

If you or a family member needs assistance with a workers’ comp claim, call on an experienced employment attorney to ensure that your legal rights are protected and that you receive the compensation you deserve. For more than 32 years Murphy & Garner has represented working people in western Georgia and throughout the state. For a free consultation, call 866-942-0552 or 678-563-1584.

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