In 2013, the Oklahoma Legislature changed the state worker’s compensation system from a judicial process to an administrative system. They implemented new rules and a new system designed to make it harder for working people to receive fair compensation when they are injured on the job.
After years of fighting, we’ve begun to chip away at the worst provisions and ease the burden on workers. Here are some positive developments from 2019:
- The Oklahoma Supreme Court removed one of the loopholes oil and gas companies used to hide from liability. The Oklahoma Supreme Court said it was unconstitutional to shield companies whose negligence harms people employed by someone else. This was a step forward regarding one of the state’s largest industries.
- People who have heart attacks or strokes can once again attempt to demonstrate stress from work contributed to their cardiovascular problems, thanks to changes in the law. The 2013 reforms said employers could not be held responsible in these cases. While it remains difficult to prove a job contributed to a heart attack, at least workers now have a chance.
- The Legislature increased compensation rates for injured workers. Even better, some disability payments will go up again in coming years. The biggest change is for injured people on temporary total disability (TTD); their payments can now run 156 weeks, instead of just 104. Furthermore, the maximum amount per week for TTD rose to $853 to match the state’s average wage! The new limits could make a $44,000 difference to someone who can’t work. That is a huge benefit for people trying to make ends meet. We also saw small but helpful increases in permanent partial disability (PPD) rates, with another raise scheduled for 2021.
While these are great strides in compensating the injured worker, we can’t say all the news is good.
Workers who allege they were fired in retaliation now have to take their claims to District Court, and the most they can claim in punitive damages is $100,000. Any regulation which limits the amount of damages someone can claim is a problem, because it can leave employers thinking their bad acts won’t be too expensive.
But we need to celebrate our successes, even as we keep an eye on the upcoming legislative session and the cases being heard in our state’s courts. At Johnson & Biscone, we’ll fight everything they try to do to put corporate interests over working people, and we will fight to defend workers’ rights.
Please contact Johnson & Biscone using the form on this page or call 405-232-6490 today to schedule your complimentary consultation. We serve clients in Oklahoma City, Edmond, Norman and the surrounding areas of Oklahoma.