Oklahoma Supreme Court Declares Opt Out Unconstitutional
Oklahoma City, OK (WorkersCompensation.com) – The Oklahoma Supreme Court this morning struck down the controversial “opt out” provision of the state's workers' compensation law. The court ruled it was an unconstitutional “special law” that gave employers the ability to provide inequitable treatment for their injured workers.
The provision allowed employers to “opt out” of the state's workers compensation system by offering an alternative private plan. The 7-2 ruling delivered Tuesday says it “creates impermissible, unequal, disparate treatment” for those workers, which the court found to be a violation of the Oklahoma Constitution.
This decision effectively leaves Texas as the only state that allows employers to not carry workers' compensation. As an “Opt In” state, it means that no state currently has an active Opt Out scenario for workers' compensation.
UPDATE: Oklahoma attorney Bob Burke has called this a "great day for the working men and women of Oklahoma, and especially for the employees of the 65 companies that opted out to date." The decision, which is 52 pages long, may be accessed here, or in the Attachments box to the right and below the article.
Calling Opt out "the biggest attack on the American worker in my 36 years of representing injured workers", Burke, who was a lead attorney on the case, said via email "If allowed to stand, the plans of the companies such as Dillard's, Big Lots, and ResCare, the nation's largest home health care agency, would have deprived injured workers out of necessary surgeries and weekly benefits. Opt out also would have allowed companies to shift the cost of paying for work-related injuries to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security."
Burke concluded that he hopes "employers who were led to believe that their workers would receive the same benefits under opt out as with regular workers' comp insurance, will read the plans next time. I believe some well meaning employers were hoodwinked into opting out just to save money."
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