This week, the Senate debated several pieces of legislation designed to improve Missouri's job climate. One such bill was Senate Bill 8, which I wrote and sponsored. This legislation is intended to protect the decades-old policy that co-employees cannot be sued by fellow employees for workplace accidents that are covered by the Missouri workers’ compensation system. A recent court decision interpreted statutory changes made in 2005 to hold a co-employee liable to a coworker, even though the employer was protected under the workers' compensation system. This new liability was not an intended result of the 2005 legislation. SB 8 will make that clear.
The Senate substitute I offered would also clarify that the Legislature intended that occupational diseases would continue to be covered by workers’ compensation. Although occupational diseases have been covered by workers’ compensation for decades, one trial court has interpreted the 2005 law to deny worker compensation coverage for occupational disease. As was the law before, SB 8 will clarify that occupational diseases are covered in workers’ compensation, unless the employer knowingly engaged in conduct that was certain to cause injury or death. When anyone deliberately harms another, that should be treated differently than workers’ compensation, which is a no-fault system with limited damages. In cases of deliberate harm, I believe the victim should be able to pursue additional damages. Otherwise, there is no effective deterrent to those who would knowingly harm others. This substitute will protect Missouri job providers from frivolous lawsuits while ensuring that there is an appropriate deterrent for those who would deliberately harm others.
The debate on Senate Bill 8 is ongoing. I hope we can bring the bill to a vote soon.
The Missouri Senate spent most of the morning of March 1 debating a measure regarding unemployment compensation. House Bill 163 would change Missouri’s unemployment compensation laws so the state could receive extended federal unemployment benefit funds that were recently approved by the federal government. The current extended benefits period expired March 3, 2011. House Bill 163 would allow unemployed workers who are eligible for extended benefits beyond April 2, 2011, to collect these benefits.
Proponents of HB 163 say failing to pass it will result in Missouri losing federal unemployment funds, which would leave Missourians who pay federal taxes essentially subsidizing recipients in other states. Opponents say that more reckless spending by the federal government is not the best way to help people. Opponents are also concerned that extending the unemployment benefit period to nearly two years offers a disincentive to employment. Opponents filibustered the bill, preventing a vote last week.
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Goodman explains proposed worker's compensation changes
In his latest report, Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, explains his bill which would change worker's compensation: