The Business Council strongly opposes this legislation, whose effect – if not its explicit intent – is to undermine the entirety of the fragile balance that is New York’s workers’ compensation system, including any and all cost savings measures introduced in 2007 and 2017. The bill would entirely circumvent the permanent partial disability duration limits adopted as part of the State's 2007 comprehensive workers' comp reform legislation and the intent to lessen the financial burdens of the workers' comp system on employers found in the 2017 comp reform package.
Most importantly, the bill undoes the “grand bargain” that is the underpinning of every workers’ compensation system in the United States. This bargain, that states that workers’ compensation shall remain the exclusive remedy of an injured worker in exchange for a strict liability for workplace injuries on the part of the employer, has been at the very heart of workers’ compensation since 1914.
This bill seeks to undo the exclusive remedy while maintaining strict liability for employers. This approach is incredibly one-sided and would result in devastating cost increases like none that have been seen before in the system. Further, it would needlessly subject employers to open-ended liabilities that would be both exceptionally expensive and completely unpredictable. Most dangerous however, is the precedent that this bill would set for New York’s workers’ compensation system and those throughout the country. The myopic approach of completely skewing the system against employers by undermining the grand bargain will open the door for the fundamental undoing of the entire system. When political winds change, as they always do, it will be injured workers left without the protections of the grand bargain – and it will be this bill that they will be able to point to as the genesis of that undoing.
The bill, which contains nineteen sections, is a completely one-sided, un-negotiated, comprehensive overhaul of the workers’ compensation system, introduced just two years after a fully-negotiated (by business, organized labor and all stakeholders) comprehensive reform was enacted. While there are some reasonable measures among those included here, none are aimed at controlling costs and almost all would work toward drastically expanding the cost of the system. Moreover, nothing in this bill provides any better medical care or return-to-work aid than already exists in the system. This bill helps lawyers not workers.
As stated earlier, this legislation would severely disrupt any attempt to control the costs of New York's comp system by undercutting the most significant program reforms enacted in recent years. It would ultimately result in massive program cost increases and an entirely uncompetitive state workers' compensation system. It is not hyperbole to state that this bill would have a devastating impact on both employment and job creation in New York. This bill is a disaster for employers and employees alike; the bill is a disaster for New York.
For these reasons The Business Council opposes the enactment of S.5302 (Ramos) / A.7045 (Bronson) in the strongest terms possible.