AFL-CIO director wants voters to fix worker’s compensation system

Senate Bill 289 is designed to “remove inefficiencies” in the current worker’s compensation system and reduce delays by getting people to treatment faster, lobbyist Sam McMullen says.

McMullen presented the measure on behalf of the Nevada Self Insurers Association — primarily the major resorts and other big corporations that can afford to self-insure for such things as worker’s compensation.

But Danny Thompson, head of Nevada’s AFL-CIO, says the bill is a disaster that would tear down any remaining protections for injured workers in an already-unfair, inadequate system.

“I don’t agree with anything in this bill,” Thompson told the committee. “Nothing in this bill is for the little guy.”

He said the bill violates a laundry list of deals and agreements the AFL-CIO has made over the years with the big self-insured employers McMullen represents and that the best way to fix it is to have the voters fix it.

“I told him we should take worker comp to the people and let them decide,” he said after Wednesday’s hearing before the Senate Commerce, Labor and Energy Committee.

Thompson made it clear that’s not an idle threat.

“For years, they wouldn’t do anything about the minimum wage,” he said “We took it to the ballot (and won). We told them last session the tax system is broken. They wouldn’t do anything. Now it’s on the ballot the next general election.”

Thompson said the bill sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, would shorten the post-injury period in which a worker can see a doctor and file a claim from 90 days to 30. It would cut benefits and make it much easier for an employer to fire an injured worker to avoid paying a claim, he said. It would also expand insurers’ ability to end benefits for misconduct.

“It’s already so grossly tilted against the employee,” Thompson said. “It’s a system that is broken, that starves people out.”

Thompson said the best answer is to “end exclusive remedy” — the law that prohibits injured workers from suing an insurer or employer for denying, delaying or under-paying claims. He said at present, the exclusive remedy for an injured worker is the worker’s compensation system, not the courts.

“Even if the insurer is violating the law and purposely denying you benefits, you can’t sue,” he said.

Thompson said the worker would get a better shake from the court system, so maybe voters should give them the right to seek relief from the courts.

The committee took no action on the bill.


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