WorkersCompensation.com Legislative Update: July 2018

Liz Carey

Providence, RI (WorkersCompensation.com) – This year’s legislative session is over in most parts of the country, but workers’ compensation reforms are just taking hold as the calendar turns the corner on the fiscal year.

In Florida, for instance, legislation to provide first responders with workers’ compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder went into effect on July 1. Signed by Gov. Rick Scott in May, the legislation will provide workers’ compensation benefits to first responders suffering from PTSD without requiring those workers to have a physical injury accompanying the psychological injury.

As previously written about in WorkersCompensation.com, the bill was the result of psychological trauma in first responders following the Pulse nightclub attack in which more than 50 club goers died in a mass shooting. Jessica Realin, wife of first responder Gerry Realin, said the legislation would help countless first responders. Her husband, Gerry, is currently undergoing treatment for PTSD after responding to the Pulse nightclub shooting, which was denied by Workers’ Compensation.

In Rhode Island, Gov. Gina Raimondo signed legislation that would limit the amount paid to employees out of the un-insured employer fund on June 30. The bill renames the fund to the Uninsured Protection Fund, and will increase the amount of benefits to $50,000 paid to employees, and pay for attorney’s fees related to the employee’s case. In addition the bill would require the employer to reimburse the fund for any benefits and attorneys’ fees paid out of the fund on their behalf.

In Pennsylvania, the House of Representatives passed a bill that will require injured employees on partial disability to undergo an evaluation by a licensed physician to determine their disability after 104 weeks of time off the job. In addition, the bill will increase to $7,000 for funeral expenses when a worker dies on the job.

The bill corrects a portion of Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation law which was struck down by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, finding that the Impairment Rating Evaluation was constitutional… but that the method for updating standards by which employees would be evaluated, was not constitutional.

Bill sponsor Rep. Rob Kauffman (R-Chambersburg), said the change would help Pennsylvania employers save money.

“Because of (the Supreme Court’s) decision employers were basically saddled with hundreds of millions of dollars in additional workers’ compensation costs,” Kauffman said in a statement. “This has been a major issue for Pennsylvania’s business community, which was being unfairly impacted by the court’s decision. House Bill 1840 restores the controls in a manner that complies with the law.”

And in New Jersey, the Senate passed legislation in June that would presume any cancers in first responders were due to their work and close proximity to hazardous chemicals and known carcinogens, unless municipalities and the state could prove otherwise.