There is an old saying that anyone who represents himself in court has a fool for a client.
The state of Arizona appears to be trying to change that perception. The state recently published five guides for employers – and others – who would prefer to represent themselves in workers comp hearings, appeals cases and the like.
Each separate guide focuses (more…)
There was a compromise recently in the Arizona legislature between supporters of businesses and employers and supporters of labor and workers. The result in the state is something worth taking a few seconds away from our federal minimum wage discussion—just a few seconds!
The compromise has been in the works for a while, but the state Senate just recently passed the workers’ comp bill this past Thursday. That vote, however, was only a preliminary vote in the Senate, and a “real” vote will take place this coming week. If things occur as expected, the bill would then get passed to the House, which would have to agree to changes that the Senate made to the bill. If all goes as planned, the House will sign off on them, and it will go to the governor to sign into law.
Those changes I mentioned include an increase to the monthly cap on how much employees can get when they are injured and disabled. Right now, the cap is at $2400 per month, but that would go up to $3000 in 2008 and then $3600 in 2009 if the law goes through. After that, the cap amount that workers could get per month if injured and disabled would be increased in much the same way some minimum wages are increased every year—by the amount of increase that the cost of living goes up in the state in the previous year.
The reason for the increase to the cap amounts, say law makers, is that the caps currently are low and hurt, so to speak, workers who normally have higher paying jobs but still get injured at work. The monthly cap for these workers might not adequately make up for the money they are losing by not being able to work. And after all, that is the whole point of workers’ comp—to compensate workers for time they miss from work due to work related injuries.
One reason that this big compromise was possible, say my experts, is because otherwise labor supporters had threatened to take the issue to the voters in the form of a ballot initiative, where the Arizona minimum wage was just passed.
While we are on the subject of Arizona, I might as well bring up another law out there that is possibly going to find its way to the governor’s desk in the state. This law could affect the way that workers’ comp gets down in the state. For those of you who are new to the blog, and a little less familiar with these human resource terms, workers’ comp is the insurance that nearly all employers in the United States must have for their workers, which guarantees workers compensation should they become injured or ill on the job and become disabled because of it.
What is happening in Arizona is that the amount of benefits that workers get there when they are disabled might go up for the first time in eight years. The proposed law would increase the maximum monthly payment that a disabled worker can get from the workers’ comp system to $1933 in 2008. That would represent an increase of about $333 over the going rate this year. According to the new bill, the maximum workers’ comp monthly payment would go up again in 2009—another $333 to $2266 per month.
There is another movement afoot, this one prompted by labor unions, to actually get the workers’ comp monthly benefit in Arizona up to $2932 per month by the year 2011. This change, however, is less likely to happen than the increases for 2008 and 2009. Republican leaders in the Senate, according to my sources, have voiced support for the next two years’ increases, but before they start talking about 2011, they say, they want a study to see if other reforms need to be done to the workers’ comp system.
However, labor groups are saying that if they don’t a four-year increase plan, they will try to get one passed through a ballot initiative. Along with the increase, they would put on the ballot a measure to allow employees to sue their employers for negligence. As it stands now, workers’ comp is a no fault system, allowing workers to not be blamed for their injuries, as well as not blaming employers.
In Arizona, the state holds the belief that reporting injuries on time to the workers’ comp authorities is one of the best ways for employers to keep the costs down of workers’ comp claims. This may be true, though we should also admit that perhaps the top way to keep costs down is to avoid workplace accidents and injuries in the first place. In that regard, workplace safety is probably one of the top ways for employers to keep control over their workers’ comp costs.
Then again, we’re here to talk about injury reporting, so let’s just assume that accidents do happen (and that is a pretty safe assumption). So the key then is to let the state know as soon as possible when one of your employees gets hurt. The way to do that is to file a form called the Employer’s Report of Industrial Injury in the state of Arizona.
This form has to go to the state’s Industrial Commission, no more than 10 days after the employee reported the injury to you. Employers can actually even call in this report to the proper authorities in the state of Arizona. All of this prompt action saves you in the long run because it helps the state deal with the whole filing process with the claim. It allows them to get their hands on the file right away, after which they will mail or fax a copy of the form to you for a signature and for your files.
The employee themselves after they get hurt must fill out another form to get their benefits and their medical care money. That form is called the Worker’s and Physician’s Report of Injury. Your employee gets that from their doctor when they first visit with them, and it’s up to the physician to file another form, Form 102, with the Arizona Industrial Commission too.
As you can tell, I am suddenly on a workers’ comp kick at the moment. Before, I was all gung-ho about all of the new minimum wages laws in states that had them on the ballots in November. And I still am interested in those new laws, because they are important to the employers in those states.
But workers’ comp is another significant topic, and one we shouldn’t overlook. In past blog entries here, way back when, we had discussed workers’ comp posters that many states require employers to post in their work sites with all of their other labor law and employer compliance posters. But here we are talking about the letter of the law when it comes to workers’ comp coverage.
And particularly, in this blog entry, we’re talking about the workers’ comp law in the state of Arizona. But before we begin, perhaps we need a quick review of the basics of workers’ comp. In essence, workers’ comp is insurance for your employees for if they get hurt. It is the employers’ responsibility in the United States to pay for this insurance, but in each state, the costs and the scope of the insurance are different.
For instance, in Arizona, the big difference between its workers’ comp system and the workers’ comp system in other states is the fact that Arizona’s is a “no fault” system. That means that no matter what caused the worker to get injured on the job, they are guaranteed payment for their medical costs and the costs of missing work.
Also, if a worker’s injury or even illness is work related, then they get medical coverage and compensation for missing work possibly. Such compensation can sometimes even become permanent, and the employee could be entitled to retraining to learn how to do another job.