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Labor department questions federal role in workers' compensation laws

Recently, the Labor Department claimed that workers' compensation laws in several states have essentially become a "race to the bottom." Based on these observations, the Labor Department has recommended that the federal government play a greater role when it comes to state workers' compensation laws. More specifically, the agency has recommended the "exploration" of establishing federal minimum benefits. 

A failure to provide adequate benefits

According to the agency, recent changes in state laws for workers' compensation has caused the failure of the workers' compensation system in many states to offer adequate benefits to injured workers.

In the report, the agency also notes that new laws, procedures, and policies have been enacted across the country. These new laws, procedures, and policies not only offer limited benefits, but they also reduce the chance that a worker will be able to successfully apply for workers' compensation benefits. These new laws discourage workers who sustain injuries from applying at all for benefits.

Last year, a Democratic group of lawmakers wrote a letter to the Labor Department and asked them to offer greater protection to injured workers due to changes in laws for workers' compensation in over 30 states. After conducting an investigation, the Labor Department agreed that there were major inadequacies when it comes to some state's workers' compensation laws. The Labor Department argues that the federal government should establish standards for workers' compensation programs and have more oversight over the programs that fail to meet these established standards.

Another suggestion the agency made is the reestablishment of the 1972 Nixon administration commission. This commission requested that Congress step in if states failed to offer minimum benefits.

In the report, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez stated that the federal government has given up all responsibility when it comes to workers' compensation. According to Perez, the lack of federal standards for workers' compensation predisposes workers who are injured on the job to become impoverished.

Many employers and insurance companies have expressed great concern over the idea of federal intervention for workers' compensation programs. The Strategic Services on Unemployment and Workers' Compensation, which represents the business community's workers' compensation interests, claimed that there has been no federal oversight of workers' comp programs. The group claimed that the establishment of federal standards would contradict the current state workers' comp system.

Any affect on injured workers?

Workers' compensation in any state can be a complex process. Often, injured workers are unable to secure fair compensation from their workplace insurance without the services of an experienced employment law attorney. Injured workers in New York struggling to obtain compensation should speak to a lawyer familiar with workers' compensation benefits or the availability of a personal injury lawsuit against a third party. 

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