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Lobby group using Texas as model to gut workers' comp nationwide

Walmart, Nordstrom, Safeway and Kohl's are among nearly two dozen major corporations that are quietly bankrolling a lobbying effort to make it harder for employees to access workers' compensation benefits. The ultimate goal is to let private employers in all 50 states opt out of state-mandated worker's compensation, something which only Texas and Oklahoma currently allow.

Workers' compensation laws began near the turn of the 20th century as a compromise between employers and workers. Employers agreed to pay for an injured worker's medical expenses and a portion of the worker's wages during their recovery. In exchange, the employee agreed not to sue their employer for negligence. Now major corporations are paying for a group called the Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers' Compensation to lobby states to rewrite the legislation to let private companies opt out. Employers would still have to provide workers' compensation, but they would be allowed to create their own rules for when, why and how long workers could receive benefits.

In Texas, a 2012 poll found that fewer than half of companies with private plans paid benefits to seriously injured employees or the families of workers killed on the job. Approximately half of the private plans also placed caps on benefits. So far, ARAWC has rewritten legislation in Tennessee to fit the workers' comp model already used in Texas and Oklahoma. Alabama, Georgia and Florida are reportedly next on its target list.

Workers injured on the job are sometimes denied the benefits they need for their recovery. Injured employees may find it helpful to work with an attorney throughout the claims process.

Source: Mother Jones, "Walmart, Lowe's, Safeway, and Nordstrom Are Bankrolling a Nationwide Campaign to Gut Workers' Comp," Molly Redden, March 26, 2015

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