The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Legal Center filed an amicus brief Thursday in a lawsuit challenging a new state law that fixed Oklahoma’s broken workers’ compensation system.
The NFIB is asking the court to uphold the 2013 law, which replaced Oklahoma’s adversarial court-based system with an administrative system that’s easier for both sides to navigate. The brief was filed in the case of Coates v. Fallin.
“Senate Bill 1062, which had overwhelming support in the Legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin in May, was a big deal for small-business owners because it dramatically reduces workers’ comp costs,” said Karen Harned, executive director of the NFIB Small Business Legal Center, based in Washington, D.C. The National Federation of Independent Business is the nation’s and Oklahoma’s leading small-business association.
“Workers’ comp premiums in Oklahoma were among the highest in the country,” said Jerrod Shouse, state director of NFIB/Oklahoma, which supported the legislation. “According to one 2012 survey, Oklahoma ranked sixth, well above any of our neighbors.” New Mexico was 27th on the list, while Missouri was 36th and Texas was 38th. Kansas, Colorado and Arkansas placed even lower.
“Not only was the old system expensive, but it was adversarial, slow, and difficult to navigate” Shouse said. “Small businesses owners deserved better, and that’s why we fought for the new administrative system.”
Under the legislation signed into law this springs, workers’ comp claims will be resolved based on the merits of the case and objective medical evidence. The system is overseen by three commissioners, appointed by the governor and subject to Senate approval, serving staggered six-year terms.
“The overhaul passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor represents a big improvement for Oklahoma’s small-business owners and employees,” Harned said. “It helps keep costs from spiraling out of control, and it helps injured workers settle their claims more quickly.
“That’s why we’re asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit and allow the administrative system to stand,” she said. “Settling workers’ comp claims should be about the employees and their employers, not about rich trial lawyers getting richer.”
The NFIB Small Business Legal Center is a 501(c)(3) organization created to protect the rights of America’s small business owners by providing advisory material on legal issues and by ensuring that the voice of small business is heard in the nation’s courts. The National Federation of Independent Business is the nation’s leading small business association, with offices in Washington, D.C. and all 50 state capitals.