On Monday, March 18th, firefighters from across the state of Oklahoma gathered at the state house in Oklahoma City to protest a new bill that makes huge changes to workers comp laws.
Hundreds of firefighters, both paid and volunteer, gathered on the steps of the state house to protest a new bill, which passed the Oklahoma state Senate last month. The bill makes changes to pensions and workers comp laws, and has caused a huge stir on both sides of the line. Firefighters in particular, however, will be affected because their job puts them at very high risk of on-the-job injury.
“Firefighters are the ones running in when everyone else is running out,” Oklahoma State Firefighters Association Executive Director Herb Bradshaw said. “Hard-working Oklahomans, particularly those who put their lives on the line for their fellow citizens each day, deserve the respect and attention of elected officials.”
“In addition, paid and volunteer firefighters must also stand unified to oppose these attempts at reducing injury compensation benefits for grieving families and funding a questionable transition to an administrative system,” Rick Beams said, president of the Professional Firefighters of Oklahoma. “These actions to chip away at the rights of firefighters are unjustified and ill-advised.”
After the rally, firefighters visited elected officials to discuss the bill.
The Controversial Workers Comp Bill That Started the Protests
The Oklahoma bill, which passed the Senate 34-12 at the end of February, specifically proposes limits to financial compensation that injured workers will receive, and sets up a new system to manage workers comp claims. The bill, named Bill 1062, is now in the house for a vote.
To reduce costs of workers comp overall, the bill would eliminate workers comp courts and instead have claims heard by an administrative panel, appointed by a trio of commissioners. The three commissioners would be appointees of the governor and subject to the Senate’s approval.
The new bill would also allow certain employers to opt out of the workers comp system in Oklahoma entirely, provided they could develop a replacement program. It also allows for employer-employee disputes to be mediated outside of court.
Proponents of the new legislation say that Bill 1062 will bring down workers comp costs for employers, and will bring compensation in line with neighboring states. Opponents say that the bill reduces employer liability and makes significant cuts to the program, which reduces the effectiveness of workers comp to protect injured and wronged workers.
Oklahoma currently ranks 6th in the nation for workers comp costs, at nearly $1 billion a year. If the bill passes, the state would become the second in the nation to allow employers to opt out of state-based workers comp programs.
The Strom Law Firm Understands Worker’s Comp Legislation
The work-injury lawyers at The Strom Law Firm, LLC proudly seek justice on behalf of employees injured or killed on the job who work for private companies, as well as employees working for local county, city, and state government. We are licensed to practice throughout South Carolina, as well as Georgia and New York. If you are confused about worker’s comp laws, or have had your worker’s comp claim denied, contact us. We offer free consultations to discuss the facts of your case. 803.252.4800.