Colorado businesses are turning a critical eye toward the 2014 Chamber session that began on Wednesday (Jan. 8), bracing for workers’ compensation reform that some entrepreneurs say will be bad for business. However, supporters of the proposed legislation argue that they simply want to establish equality in a system that has clearly favored employers over employees for far too long.
Rep. Angela Williams of Denver, chair of the House Business, Labor, Economic & Workforce Development Committee and leading sponsor of the bill, told The Colorado Statesman: “We have a workers’ comp system that works very well for employers, so we’re trying to have a balanced conversation and make sure employees get the best care when there is a loss on the job due to injury.”
Specifically, the first draft of the bill addressed three issues plaguing the current system, in Williams’ view—doctor choice, safety rule violations, and separation agreements.
Under the current law, the employer chooses up to two doctors to assess the severity of a worker’s injuries—however, the proposed bill’s first draft would allow the worker to pick a “willing provider” to provide treatment.
Also, benefits for employees injured due to disregarded safety rules would increase by 50 percent if the proposal is passed. The current system allows employers to cut a worker’s benefits by half if the employee was injured as a result of violating the company’s safety policies, but no such “corollary” stipulation exists for negligence on the employer’s part.
Lastly, while not yet a part of the workers’ compensation system, separation agreements could be brought in under the new bill and banned.
There is concern over the bill within the business community, and several business leaders who have reviewed the first draft say the proposal is unnecessary. They argue that the current system already makes Colorado a national leader in championing workers’ rights and doesn’t need a change.
Lawmakers are currently in the process of coming up with a second draft of the proposed legislation and some compromises will likely be made—such allowing employers to continue assigning a doctor, but giving workers a “limited doctor choice” in the event of a conflict.
If a disagreement arises between you and your employer over reimbursement for an injury you acquired while on the job, discuss your case with a Colorado workers’ compensation attorney at The Babcock Law Firm today.
Our dedicated and highly-skilled legal team is here to help you! Call us at 303.683.5033 to get started.