The Business Council of New York State, a statewide association of more than 4000 companies, chambers of commerce, and trade associations which employ more than one million individuals, has reviewed the aforementioned legislation and supports its enactment.
This bill addresses two very important reforms for New York State employers. First, it exempts from workers' compensation coverage any injury or occupational disease sustained by an employee in the perpetration of an illegal act. In 1986 the Court of Appeals held that the Workers' Compensation Law does not preclude benefits for employees injured while engaged in illegal activity. New York State spends tremendous resources to fight crime, yet our employers are forced to compensate employees when an illegal activity results in injury. The law is unjust and needs to be changed.
Second, the bill provides an important reform to the standard of proof in cases where the employee is injured when intoxicated or under the influence of an illegal drug. The bill would require employers contesting a workers' comp claim to prove that intoxication was the "predominant" cause of the injury to an employee injured while on duty. The current standard requires employers to show that the claimant's intoxication was the "sole" cause of the injury - a standard that is virtually impossible to meet.
This legislation has been a priority of The Business Council for several years. Our employers are not asking for the right to deny benefits just because an injured worker might have been drunk, might have been high, or might have been committing a crime. The employer would have to prove the case. But if one of those factors is proven to be present, a simple case of fairness dictates that the employer should not be left responsible for compensation.
Taking cases involving alcohol, illegal drugs and criminal activity out of the workers' compensation system is a fair and reasonable step in continuing workers' compensation reform. For this reason, The Business Council of New York State strongly supports S.293 and A.1375 and urges its enactment into law.