Friday, June 14, 2013

Maiming Workers for Fun and Profit in Texas

Texas Governor Rick Perry likes to come up to my home state of Illinois to try and recruit employers to move to Texas, bragging how his state is friendlier to business (meaning less expensive to operate in). Now an article in Salon details one of those business friendly practices that is particularly insidious.

Texas is the only state in the U.S. that allows employers the option of "going bare" for Workers Compensation--that is, not buying insurance (or meeting obligations via other approved routes like self-insurance). It leaves the employer, technically at least, vulnerable to lawsuits from injured workers. But the Lone Star State employers who want to save money don't appear to have to worry too much about lawsuits from the crippled and maimed undocumented workers they leave without medical coverage.

They just say that their workers are "independent contractors" and thus responsible for making their own decision about whether or not to purchase WC insurance. And when those workers fall and break their backs, or lose a finger or hand, well, that's just pure capitalism in action, Texas style.

According to the article, the Texas legislature tried to correct these abuses--and got bushwacked, as they might say down there, and so the bill died on the vine.

Take a look at the full article here.

Illinois Court Rules Gay Harassment Suit Barred by WC Exclusive Remedy and Human Rights Act

An Illinois appellate court has ruled that a gay man's suit against his employer for harassment over his sexual orientation is barred by the exclusive remedy provisions of the Workers Compensation Act and the provisions of the Human Rights Act.

Frederick Schroeder had filed suit against RGIS, Inc. alleging that a supervisor used derogatory terms about the man's sexual orientation in front of other workers. The suit also alleged that the company had him working extreme hours that left him emotionally and physically exhausted.

The court ruled that the worker could not sue for negligence because the Workers Comp Act and the Human Rights Act covered the situation.

New Fraud Fighting Tool in Florida

Florida has enacted a new statutory tool for reducing Workers Comp fraud. The new law, signed by the governor on June 7, creates a database system for tracking checks cashed at check cashing stores. The law requires reporting of data on all checks over $1,000.00.

These check cashing stores, it turns out, are believed to often be used in premium avoidance schemes by unscrupulous employers. More info can be found here.

Premium reduction or avoidance schemes by some employers put honest companies at a competitive disadvantage, and endanger workers who can be deprived of the protections and benefits that states have enacted via their Workers Compensation statutes.