Workers’ compensation courts do more than just decide workers’ compensation cases. Workers’ compensation courts also collect information about work injuries that is public information. But what happens when workers are classified as independent contractors?
Recently three U.S. Senators found out how difficult it was to find out information about work injuries for independent contractors when Amazon refused to provide information about injuries to drivers contracted with Amazon.
In Nebraska, employers are required to report injuries to the Nebraska Workers Compensation Court and those records are public record. These reports, called First Reports of Injury, at least provide some basic information about the number and nature of injuries.
The fact that First Reports are public is somewhat controversial. Opponents of making first reports public argue the workers’ compensation court is disclosing private health information. Many also find the practice of plaintiff’s attorney using the reports for marketing purposes distasteful.
On the flip side, if insurers and employers always treated their injured workers fairly and lawfully, they wouldn’t call lawyers. Secondly the availability of information about work injuries can help legislators and other policy makers improve workplace safety.
Employer advocates may argue that employers have an incentive to make their workplaces safe because of cost. But when employers, like Amazon, make their workers independent contractors they don’t provide workers’ compensation benefits. This shifts the cost of work injuries onto workers and society as a whole. When companies classify their workers as independent contractors it is difficult even for powerful United States senators to determine the true cost of work injuries.
State workers’ compensation courts do important work in tracking work injuries. But as readers of this blog know, workers’ compensation laws are state-based laws. What may be a reportable injury in one state might not be reportable in another state. OSHA Rules 300 and 301 create a national standard for when an injury is recordable. But a rule that would have strengthened reporting requirements under OSHA was overturned through the Congressional Review Act. (CRA)
Many rules adopted by the Department of Labor during the Obama administration were overturned through the CRA. Reporting by Mike Elk at Payday Report revealed the dithering by the Obama administration on workplace safety that allowed Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration to overturn these rules.