The Employer's Legal Resource: Update - Oklahoma Supreme Court Upholds New Workers' Compensation Law
In May, Governor Mary Fallin signed Oklahoma Senate Bill 1062, enacting into law the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act, the Oklahoma Employee Injury Benefit Act, and the Workers' Compensation Arbitration Act. The Administrative Act replaces the existing Workers' Compensation Code and changes the workers compensation system from an adversarial judicial system to an administrative system. The Employee Injury Benefit Act permits certain employers to "opt-out" and administer their own benefit plans and the Arbitration Act governs arbitration agreements entered into between employers and employees.
However, as we told you in October 2013, a group of lawmakers and a state firefighters union filed a challenge to the new workers' compensation laws before the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Their primary constitutional challenge to Senate Bill 1062 was that the Oklahoma Legislature enacted a bill containing multiple subjects in violation of the Oklahoma Constitution. The practice of compiling multiple subjects into one bill is commonly referred to as "log-rolling." On December 17, the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld Senate Bill 1062 and rejected the challenges to the new workers' compensation laws. The Supreme Court further stated that "the protection of employees from the hazards of their employment is a proper subject for legislative action and that, in providing such protection, the Legislature may commit the details of that defense to an [administrative] entity."
The Oklahoma Administrative Workers' Compensation Act, the Oklahoma Employee Injury Benefit Act, and the Workers' Compensation Arbitration Act go into effect on February 1, 2014. The Acts will not be retroactively applied and will only apply to claims that arise on or after February 1, 2014. For more information on the Administrative Act, please see our September 2013 issue.
By Kenneth T. Short, firstname.lastname@example.org