An injured worker recently settled with her company that had previously denied her workers’ compensation for medical care and lost wages after she was injured on the job. She was injured while working at an Oklahoma homeless shelter last year while trying to protect a mentally disabled man who was being attacked by another client.
The company that operates the homeless shelter claims that it is the nation’s largest provider of services to people who have disabilities. After the worker’s shoulder injury disabled her and prevented her from returning to work, the company ironically did not provide her with services or compensation.
Both Oklahoma and Texas are opt out states, which means employers have the ability to deny injured workers benefits that would normally be granted by state-regulated workers’ compensation programs. Typically, companies that opt out of workers’ compensation give workers a 24-hour deadline or less to report injuries. Injured workers do not receive benefits after the deadline, which is exactly what happened to the Oklahoma worker, who says she was heavily medicated at the emergency room when her deadline passed.
As a result, she and other Oklahoma workers filed claims against their employers as well as state regulators due to the unreasonable deadline provision in the state opt out laws. Since her settlement, the injured worker has finally been able to receive proper medical treatment and compensation for her lost wages. She is planning to continue her medical treatment and seek out another job.
Texas and Oklahoma Opt Out Laws Do Not Benefit Workers
According to U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, opt out plans that are the alternative to workers’ compensation create a “pathway to poverty,” where injured workers are unable to receive medical treatment and unable to return to work. The agency is conducting an investigation to find whether opt out plans in Texas and Oklahoma violate any federally regulated benefits provisions.
In the meantime, the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission is taking the state’s opt out system to the Supreme Court to determine whether it is constitutional. Hopefully, the court rules against opt out systems and Texas can follow suit.