The Ohio Association for Justice, which represents the state's trial lawyers, has spoken out in opposition to proposed changes to the Ohio workers' compensation changes added to the budget bill passed by the state Legislature. The bill, which the group finds to harm the interests of injured Ohio workers, was passed by the state Senate and House and now awaits the governor's approval.
Workers injured in workplace accidents in Ohio are entitled to awards compensating them for lost wages due to their injuries, but the new budget bill would make it more difficult for employees to receive lump sum payments after losing limbs while on the job. The bill would also make professional sports teams in the state exempt from a rule forcing Ohio employers to obtain independent workers' compensation coverage, instead allowing them to join their leagues' policies.
The executive director for the Ohio Association for Justice said his group is particularly concerned about the changes since the governor and a number of Republican legislators agreed to speak with labor unions before suggesting any changes to the state's workers' compensation system. He explained, "There was no public testimony on the changes.... Part of our frustration is this stuff just goes in the bill and legislators say they don't know where it came from." The director added that he does not expect the governor to veto the bill.
Republicans have defended the changes, arguing that they are not part of any larger workers' compensation reform, but rather a return to the way Ohio handled lump sum awards in the past.
Workers should let the governor know if they believe the new provisions could be detrimental. Injured workers need compensation benefits to get by while being unable to work.
Source: Columbus Business Insider, "Trial attorneys peeved about last-minute workers' comp changes in budget bill," Jeff Bell, May 24, 2012