Are You Working For A Company That Has Opted Out Of Worker's Compensation Protection?

Posted on: 19 April 2016

Worker's compensation programs are a crucial protection that ensure that employees are properly cared for after being injured on the job. However, two states have changed their laws to allow private companies to forego the usual compensation requirements and develop their own private injury and death plans that are far less comprehensive and very weakly regulated. Find out which states allow for this kind of change and what you can do about it.

Changing State Laws

As of April 2016, only Texas and Oklahoma allow companies that employ the public to opt-out of the federally mandated worker's compensation programs by developing their own alternatives. The lawmakers and lobbyists who created the bill claim that it was designed to help reduce some of the bureaucracy surrounding worker's compensation so employers can help their employees faster and with less paperwork and red tape.

Unfortunately, the laws are actually allowing many companies to drastically reduce the benefits they offer to injured employees far below the usual standards set by both the state and federal governments. In fact, Texas employers don't have to offer any injury or death benefits at all to their employees. Even if companies in either state offer an alternative plan, they also have the right to determine who qualifies for it and who doesn't after an injury has already occurred.

Failing to Compensate Fairly

While it's true that cutting worker's compensation insurance cuts costs for the employer, those savings come at the expense of the worker. Injured workers in both states face serious gaps in medical help and compensation like

  • A lack of treatment for bacterial infections in a skilled nursing setting where the infections are common in employees
  • Hearing aid compensation that doesn't even cover the models sold by the company itself
  • Tight deadlines for reporting injuries and illnesses, such as the end of a shift or a 24 hour period.

Worker's compensation laws are designed to protect the employee from these kinds of unfair regulations and limitations, but companies that opt out are allowed to set their own rules and enforce them however they like. In fact, some companies even require injured employees to bring their managers along to all doctor's appointments, which means the employee must schedule their appointments around their manager's work schedule or pay for the treatments out of pocket.

Signing Away Your Rights

Of course, employees are still allowed to sue for civil damages in these states because there's no specific exemption against proving negligence in the workplace yet. However, there's a loophole around this essential form of worker protection as well. In Texas, many employers insert a clause into their employment contracts that prevents employees from suing the company for any reason, including for civil damages due to injury. If you sign a contract with this kind of clause, you could be left with absolutely no support or compensation after a job site injury leaves you permanently disabled.

Working with an Attorney

Workers in Oklahoma and Texas can't always refuse to take jobs that come without worker's compensation benefits or lawsuit blocking clauses, but they can negotiate around them. Hiring a worker's compensation attorney before you get injured allows you to work with your employer to remove lawsuit-related clauses from your employment contract. It's also recommended that you take your company's private injury plan to a worker's compensation lawyer to get a professional's opinion on whether it provides enough coverage or not.

If your lawyer points out major gaps in the plan that could leave you filing for bankruptcy due to medical bills, start working towards finding an employer who hasn't opted out of the state regulated program. Consider taking out an extra insurance plan for work-related injuries on your own as well until you can find a better position with a more caring employer. For more information, contact a practice like Shaw Leslie Law Office.