Oklahoma workers’ compensation “opt-out” law struck down

A recently passed Oklahoma law allowing employers to opt out of most of the state’s workers’ compensation program violates the state’s constitution, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled September 13.

“The core provision of the Opt Out Act, creates impermissible, unequal, disparate treatment of a select group of injured workers,” the Court ruled. “Therefore, we hold that the Oklahoma Employee Benefit Injury Act…is an unconstitutional special law under the Oklahoma Constitution.”

Like that of most states, the Oklahoma Constitution guarantees a right to workers’ compensation for workers injured during the course of their employment. In 2013, the state passed the Employee Injury Benefit Act, better known as the Opt Out Act, which allowed employers to create their own workers compensation schemes.

The law specified that these plans must follow the state’s standards, set for determining claimant’s “average weekly wage, death beneficiaries, and disability.”

However, it specified that these employers could set their own rules for “defining covered injuries, medical management, dispute resolution or other process, funding, notice or penalties.

Texas is the only other that has passed an opt-out workers compensation law, although such measures have been proposed in multiple states, reported ProPublica, which with NPR published an extensive report in May 2015 on the nationwide trend toward cutbacks in state workers’ compensation systems.