The Business Council strongly opposes S.6495 (Alcantara) / A.8240 (Abbate), the effect of which, while perhaps not explicit, would undermine the balance adopted as part of the state's 2017 comprehensive workers' comp reform budget legislation and its intent to increase benefits for the most injured workers while lessening the financial burdens of the workers' comp system on employers.
The 2017 reform carefully balanced increases in the availability of benefits for workers with the need to control costs. One of the measures in the reform, significantly expands the availability of First Responder Stress Claims by removing the standard of “the stress must be greater than that which usually occurs in the normal work environment” for first responders (i.e. police officers and firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, certified emergency medical providers, emergency dispatchers, and those with similar titles). Thus, those first responders who encounter extraordinary stress in a work-related emergency who file a claim for mental injury will not be barred from a compensable work-related stress claim because the stress they encountered in dealing with an extraordinary work-related emergency is “no-greater-than” the stress encountered by other similarly situated first responders. There is little question that this change will lead to an increase in workers’ compensation claims.
Now, less than two months after the 2017 reform took effect, this bill looks to expand the relaxation of “the stress must be greater than that which usually occurs in the normal work environment” standard for all employees in all work places. This drastic change to current state law would open the floodgates to mental health related workers’ compensation claims that are not the result of a true workplace injury, but rather the simple everyday stresses faced by all people in any safe and reasonable workplace. Work is, by its very nature, sometimes stress inducing. This is why the courts long ago adopted this important standard, in order to differentiate between mental stress caused by something extraordinary or something mundane. This bill simply ignores this reality and asks employers to shoulder an impossible burden.
This bill would severely disrupt any attempt to control the costs of New York's comp system by undercutting all of the program reforms included in the 2017 budget and would ultimately result in massive program cost increases and an entirely uncompetitive state workers' compensation system.
For these reasons The Business Council strongly opposes the enactment of S.6495 (Alcantara) / A.8240 (Abbate).