The legislature's Labor and Public Employees Committee is reviewing a number of measures expanding the state's workers' compensation system.

The committee's Feb. 18 agenda included four bills extending benefits for mental and emotional impairments suffered by workers.

"Direct financial impact on struggling businesses." CBIA's John Blair testifying before the legislature's Labor Committee Feb. 18.

Any expansion of workers' compensation coverage increases premiums on businesses of all sizes.

The most robust of the four bills is SB 660, which extends workers' compensation benefits for mental or emotional impairments to cover all workers. 

CBIA associate counsel John Blair asked committee members to carefully consider the bill's impact on employers at a critical time in the state's economic recovery.

"If this proposal is passed it will likely result in a direct financial impact on our state's struggling businesses," Blair said.

"The expansion of coverage of workers' compensation increases premiums on businesses of all sizes.

"Employers, who already are struggling in the midst of the pandemic to stay afloat, do not need to incur increased direct costs."

Additional Bills

The other three workers' compensation measures are more narrowly drawn.

SB 665 allows emergency medical service providers to obtain benefits for certain mental or emotional impairments.

SB 666 requires workers' compensation coverage for certain mental or emotional impairments caused by on-job actions, removes restrictions that limit coverage to injuries related to nonphysical injuries, and provides coverage for all Department of Correction job classifications, emergency medical staff, and dispatchers. 

HB 5952 assesses a daily $250 penalty on the losing party in a workers' compensation action.

SB 141 makes cancer a presumptive line of duty injury, granting professional and volunteer firefighters diagnosed with cancer eligibility for workers' compensation and other benefits.

Blair also shared employer concerns with HB 5952, which assesses a daily $250 penalty on the losing party in a workers' compensation action when they are found to be in violation of nonpayment due to undue delay.

He noted that the legislature created a task force in 2019 to review undue delay concerns.

"The evidence presented to the task force indicated undue delay is infrequent and, in the rare case that does include undue delay, remedies available under the Workers' Compensation Act were deemed to address such cases," Blair told committee members.

For more information, contact CBIA's John Blair (860.244.1921).