Reforming our Workers’ Compensation System

Successful government is often about balance. This week, the Senate debated the issue of balance between employees who have filed workers’ compensation claims and their employers.

A 2014 decision by the Missouri Supreme Court created a deep imbalance in our business community. The decision opened up employers to much greater liability by significantly lowering the standards to make a workers’ compensation claim for discrimination. This decision made it too easy to file a frivolous and potentially inaccurate lawsuit against employers, thus hampering the business productivity of our state and the rights of our business owners.

To solve this problem, the Senate approved Senate Bill 113, which modifies the laws regarding the firing of employees under workers’ compensation laws.

The first thing my bill does is restore the standard of proof in those workers’ compensation cases. This will ensure that injured workers retain their rights while maintaining a strict standard to bring suit. My bill also stipulates that workers’ comp payments are decreased if a worker was shown to be on illegal drugs or alcohol during the time of the incident. And, lastly, Senate Bill 133 stipulates that an employee who walks away from their job, even when medically appropriate light-duty is offered, also walks away from their temporary benefits.

To give a bit more background, the 2014 Missouri Supreme Court case I referred to previously was Templemire v. W&M Welding. That case broke almost 30 years of case law precedent. In the past, an employee injured on the job must have proven that his or her prior workers’ compensation claim was the “exclusive factor” for their firing. But in 2014, the court incorrectly decided that a former employee must only prove that a prior workers’ compensation claim was simply a “contributing factor” to their discharge, as opposed to the previous standard of an “exclusive factor” in order to win a wrongful discharge lawsuit.

My bill ensures that the balance is restored in the employer-employee relationship, giving both sides the respect and freedom that they deserve. We cannot allow the extreme decisions of our state courts over the last ten years to continue eroding the delicate balance of Missouri’s workers’ compensation system. We must protect injured workers, but we also have to make sure that we do not unnecessarily harm business owners. My bill finds the right middle ground, and I am proud to sponsor it.

Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan

District 26

 

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