• Jon B. Comstock

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION – CAN WE MAKE IT MORE UNFAIR?

Updated: Jun 3

MONDAY MATTERS - MAY 18, 2020 |


During (and following) this Pandemic, my sense as a candidate for Arkansas’ House District 96 is that one of the most important groups that needs the Legislature’s help are the wage-earners and their families who are potentially overwhelmed by the loss of a job or the inability to stay safe.

WORKERS NEED THE GOVERNOR (AND LEGISLATURE)’S HELP!

We hear a lot today about the “gig economy” and the ability to work from home – keeping the worker and his/her family safe from COVID-19. But what of those who have jobs that require that they “show up for work” and work a full day in the presence of co-workers? What if they then come down with COVID-19? Do we protect them? Short answer, No.

It was hard for me to listen to our Governor the other day when he said that any employee who catches COVID-19 at the workplace is assured to receive adequate health care and other benefits by simply filing a worker’s compensation claim. (See Democrat Gazette, “VIRUS CLAIM ‘nearly impossible,’ say labor, business officials. State chamber, AFL-CIO agree, despite governor’s remarks on workers’ comp”, May 17, 2020.)

The Governor’s words were, “They would be covered by workers’ compensation if there’s a casual connection between their employment and their contraction of the virus.” (emphasis added).

I believe workers need our Governor to intervene on their behalf – not sell them a bill of goods when it comes to the uncompensated and uninsured risks they face when going back to work. He knew enough about the barriers to being able to “prove up a claim” by the employee, that the employee would have to have testimony from a qualified expert who could meet the evidentiary burden of proof to prove that the “contraction” was at the place of employment. That same witness for the employee of course would be cross-examined by the employer’s attorney and asked whether or not, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, the witness could exclude all of the non-workplace environments, such as home, the supermarket, pharmacy, or with friends or family. Of course, without extensive “tracing data” (which we all now know involves a gargantuan effort to piece together), there is no potential to make the “causal connection” the Governor mentioned. Thus, there is no way that an injured employee has the financial resources to be able to event attempt to hire such an expert witness, much less obtain the data required. A more candid answer by the Governor would have been to acknowledge that this issue highlights a serious gap in the coverage provided by workers’ compensation – which he intends to fix!

Even the President of the State Chamber of Commerce and a local AFL-CIO attorney agreed that the Governor had it all wrong. They acknowledged that an employee would be out of luck as, practically speaking, there would be no way to PROVE the “causal connection”.

ACTION ITEM: If you agree with me, reach out to your Legislator and the Governor and ask them to fix the problem – to assure workers going back to work that “we have your back”!

© Jon Comstock  for Arkansas 2020

Paid for by Jon Comstock for Arkansas