Oklahoma Supreme Court Changes Stance on New Workers Comp Legislation, Supports the Bill
After the Oklahoma legislature made changes to the state’s workers comp laws in May, the Professional Firefighters of Oklahoma decided to fight back, and claimed that the new law was unconstitutional. In November, their claim went before the Oklahoma Supreme Court, who initially seemed to side with the firefighters.
However, the court has now ruled, officially, that the new workers comp legislation is constitutional.
On Monday, December 16th, the court handed down their ruling after a week of oral arguments in the lawsuit that alleged that the law amounted to “unconstitutional log-rolling,” as it contained multiple subjects, which violates Oklahoma’s single-subject rule.
However, the Supreme Court disagreed. “As all sections of the new law are inter-related and refer to a single subject, workers’ compensation or the manner in which employees may ensure protection against work-related injuries, we disagree with the constitutional challenge to the administrative act on grounds of log-rolling,” the Oklahoma Supreme Court wrote in its majority opinion.
The law, which changes the Oklahoma workers comp system from a court-based system to an administrative one, a step some other states choose to take in a bid to save costs on workers comp filings. The Oklahoma law will officially go into effect on February 1st of next year.
The Court also made it clear that any future challenges to the new workers comp law should go through the Workers Compensation Commission before being sent to the state Supreme Court. However, the justices did keep the door open for future lawsuits regarding the workers comp law. “Until such time as a case or controversy or a justiciable issue is presented to this court, we are without jurisdiction to rule further with regard to this act,” the opinion said.
In keeping with this open-door policy, Justice Douglas Combs of Shawnee wrote a separate opinion, saying certain provisions of the new law “are unconstitutional because they provide for different treatment in appellate procedure for claimants and therefore violate the special law prohibitions” in the Oklahoma Constitution.
Opponents of the legislation are concerned that any savings incurred by an administrative workers comp system will come at the expense of injured workers.
The Strom Law Firm Understands Worker’s Comp Legislation
Workers’ compensation insurance benefits to assist the injured employee include:
- Medical treatment and other medical expenses (gas mileage, public transportation costs)
- Lost wages: 2/3 of an employee’s wages will be paid out after a seven-day waiting period
- Compensation for a permanent loss: blindness, loss of limb
- Death benefits to spouse and dependents
The workers comp 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.