Good News on Workers Compensation, Bad News on Employment Law
A bill streamlining the workers compensation process for employers passed the state House May 18 and awaits action in the Senate.
HB 7132 ensures a worker’s notice of claim for injury gets into the hands of the person responsible for investigating and paying it, a benefit to both employers and employees.
Employers have only 28 days from the date they receive an injured worker’s written claim notice to either file a notice that they are contesting the claim, or begin paying benefits to the worker.
If the employee misses this deadline, the system presumes the employer accepted the extent of the claim and will pay.
The strictness of this presumption makes it imperative that the worker’s notice gets into the hands of the person in charge of investigating the claim and contacting the insurer.
HB 7132 mitigates this by requiring the employer to post notice of where the worker’s written notice should be sent via certified mail in the same area where other employee and workplace notices required by law are posted.
The employer must also ensure the address of where the worker’s written notice should be sent is posted on the Workers Compensation Commission website.
Under HB 7132, the 28-day period only begins when the worker's notice is in the hands of the investigating person.
This helps employees by providing a point person who receives the notices, and allows a prompt investigation of the claim, which helps the employer and employee.
At the same time, the bill maintains that employers who are deliberately slow in responding to a worker's notice be punished by not being allowed to contest liability and extent of disability.
HB 7132 is on the Senate calendar.
Please contact your Senate members and urge their support for a bill that helps employers and employees.
Employment Law Bill
A bill that does away with the "exclusive remedy" provision of Connecticut's Workers Compensation Act died in the Appropriations Committee.
HB 6666 removes from the WCC the power to assess penalties for undue delay and unreasonable contest.
It allows the claimant to seek damages from an insurer or third-party administrator for unreasonable contest or delay.
Allowing workers to file a separate action in another forum where the fact finders are not familiar with workers compensation practices only invites litigation and increases costs for Connecticut employers and insurers.
WCC commissioners are skilled at determining when an insurer or third-party administrator has unjustifiably contested a claim, or improperly delayed the payment of benefits, and have the power to remedy the situation.
There is redress under the system for an insurer's unreasonable contest or undue delay by asking a commissioner for an emergency hearing.
In addition, a commissioner has the power to order that the benefits and/or medical treatment be immediately paid in addition to interest, attorney's fees, and civil fines for the delay.
CBIA along with other interested parties opposed the bill.
'Whistleblower Bill' Advances
The state Senate passed a bill this week exposing employers and municipalities to potentially increased liability and compliance costs.
SB 929 broadens conditions under which employees can bring action against employers by adding protections for employees who object or refuse to participate in activity they "reasonably believe" constitutes a violation or suspected violation of any:
- State or federal law or regulation
- Municipal ordinance or regulation
- Court order
The bill awaits action in the House.
No employer wants an employee disciplined or fired for doing the right thing and reporting potentially "illegal" conduct.
Current law already addresses any potential situations.
SB 929 could raise property taxes based on the potential for increasing municipalities' exposure to lawsuits.
The bill also extends from 90 to 180 days the time an employee may sue if discharged or disciplined in violation of the statute after exhausting all available administrative remedies.
And it establishes new penalties in civil actions for violations of the statute.
In addition to reinstatement and back pay, employees can get compensatory damages, future economic damages, punitive damages, and have records of discipline removed from personnel files—if the employer's conduct is deemed willful or intentional.
Current law strikes the right balance between protecting an employee from retaliation while also protecting an employer from frivolous and baseless complaints.
Please contact your representative in the House and urge them to oppose SB 929.
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