More than 70 labor groups filed suit this week challenging the constitutionality of Missouri’s new workers’ compensation law, claiming it tilts toward employers so dramatically as to breach a social contract established when voters created the system in 1926.
The lawsuit asks the Cole County Circuit Court to strike down a Republican-backed law revamping the workers’ comp system that took effect Aug. 28. In general, the law made it harder to prove injuries are work-related.
The new law “is an immoral assault on every working family in Missouri,” Sherwood Smith, president of the Missouri State Council of Fire Fighters, said while announcing the lawsuit outside a fire station near the state Capitol. It “tosses aside previous fundamental protections and shifts the cost of workplace injuries to the employee and his or her family.”
The workers’ comp system was created as a way to resolve injury claims through administrative proceedings rather than the courts. But the lawsuit contends the new law “drastically altered” the workers’ comp system by limiting workers’ rights to the point that the system no longer is an adequate alternative to the courts.
The measure was one of this year’s top priorities for Republican Gov. Matt Blunt and the GOP-led Legislature, who argued it would help reduce the rising workers’ comp insurance premiums paid by businesses, and thus improve Missouri’s business climate.
Among other things, the new law requires work to be the “prevailing factor” for people to be compensated for an injury, instead of the previous standard of a “substantial factor.”
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