Today’s post comes from guest author Charlie Domer, from The Domer Law Firm in Milwaukee, a respected firm that advocates for workers who are hurt on the job.
This post, which ran last month, is timely because at the beginning of the year, most state legislature are starting their new sessions. Legislatures directly shape the face of each state’s workers’ compensation system through the lawmaking process.
Mr. Domer’s excellent analysis points out how disturbing it is when businesses bring both their political influence and their influence on workers’ medical treatment into the workers’ compensation process, which inevitably hurts injured workers even more. In Nebraska, as was described in the article, Tyson works to minimize the costs it incurs to help injured workers by referring workers to “their own medical provider system.” The original ProPublica article, which is definitely worth a read, extensively chronicles how Tyson has affected the workers’ compensation system in Iowa, where both Todd D. Bennett and Roger D. Moore are licensed.
I realize that many who work at Tyson don’t have the luxury of being picky about selecting a job, but it is disturbing, and as Mr. Domer writes, scary, that by focusing on its bottom line more than helping injured workers, Tyson at least appears to treat its workers like a disposable commodity instead of human beings.
Another major article addressed the further attacks on the worker’s compensation system. This time, there is an in-depth analysis of one specific company–Tyson Foods–and its attempts to influence worker’s compensation benefits throughout the country. From Pro Publica, the article is Tyson Foods’ Secret Recipe For Carving Up Workers’ Comp.
This extensive article documents the legislative influence that Tyson exerts in attempts to diminsh or eliminate its worker’s compensation costs. As many companies focus on the bottom line, failing to acknowledge the actual benefits of the work comp “grand bargain” appear short-sighted. Tyson Foods is involved in an industry that includes meat processing plants and physical work–with inherent levels of risk and injury. Worker’s compensation injuries are simply the cost of doing this type of business. Without worker’s compensation, there would be the potential for civil litigation and jury awards based on negligence or fault. One wonders what that litigation world would like for injuries at a meat processing plant.
Further, the article outlines Tyson Foods’ minimization of worker’s compensation costs through their own medical provider system. Through plant nurses and “managed care units”, workers treat with company-controlled or company-influenced medical providers. Again, one can wonder about the indepedence of such providers. Are injuries truly being classified as work-related? Can there be a push for a too-soon return to work? Do workers get the independent specialized medical care that is necessary?
This article raises some questions about what managed care or employer-directed medical care could mean in certain states. It highlights the influence a large employer can have over the medical care and treatment of its injured workers. Wisconsin still has employe choice of physicians, which allows access to quality, timely medical care and produces some of the fastest return to work rates in the country. Employer directed medical care could upend these beneficial components to Wisconsin’s system.
Finally, grave concerns are shown about political influence. Getting rid of judges and commissioners they disagree with, large corporations try to shape the system to benefit only them. Workers hoping for a fair shake after a work injury could face a harsh awakening.
Scary, scary article.