Wednesday, July 16, 2014
By World's Editorial Writers
Change isn’t always easy.
The state’s determination to reform its workers compensation system from a litigious, inefficient and expensive judicial system to a cost-saving administrative system is a perfect example of how needed transformation can still be difficult.
Workers compensation is complex to begin with, but the process has been made more difficult by vested interests determined to win their point in court after losing it in the Legislature.
First, there was a challenge to the 2013 law’s constitutionality, based on the argument that it violated the Constitution’s one-topic mandate. The high court disagreed. The law went into effect.
Then, there were complaints that the state was shorting the budget for operating the old court system during the transition and that injured workers would have to wait longer for their cases to resolve. The governor’s office said it had assurances from the court that it could get the job done.
Now, a workers comp court employee, represented by a workers comp lawyer, has filed another suit. The suit alleges the way she lost her job in the transition is an example of “a pattern of discrimination” of other workers under the new system. Ironically, the suit’s specific allegation is that the employee lost her job in retaliation for a work-related injury, carpal tunnel syndrome.
We won’t make any judgments on the facts and conclusion of the lawsuit. We’ll leave that to the court.
But we will stand behind the need for reforming Oklahoma’s workers compensation system.
Oklahoma employers complained for years that they were put at an outrageous cost disadvantage to competitors in other states because the state’s legalistic workers comp system pushed their insurance rates sky high.
The system was a brake on the state’s economic expansion for years.
To their credit, Gov. Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma Legislature finally got it done in 2013.
Completely changing this important process will not be simple and some people will lose out in the process.
We aren’t surprised that people who have made their living off the old system for years are resisting reform, but that has no bearing on the fact that the change was desperately needed and that the state as whole will come out better for it.
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