'Draconian' changes made in secret 'will harm families statewide,' attorney says
The state Workers' Compensation Board published proposed guidelines shortly before midnight on Labor Day weekend outlining changes that would decimate the state's workers' compensation system and put thousands of families at risk of ruin, according to attorney Victor Pasternack of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP.
"The weekend we're supposed to honor labor and celebrate the sacrifices that labor made, these guys [the state Workers' Compensation Board] released this draconian set of guidelines," said attorney Pasternack. "This proposal will kill workers' comp and devastate families throughout New York. It's an insult to hardworking people statewide."
Pasternack is the managing partner with over 40 years of experience at Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP, a law firm that has represented over 100,000 New Yorkers in workers' compensation claims. New York AFL-CIO president Mario Cilento agreed with Pasternack, according to a Sept. 10, 2017 New York Daily News article, calling the proposed changes "wholly unjustifiable."
The proposal would completely dismantle protections for workers that have been in place since the early 1900s. Such changes would "drastically reduce, and in most cases eliminate, compensation for permanent injuries to limbs, including: fractures; torn ligaments, tendons, and cartilage; dislocations; and surgery up to and in some cases including total joint replacement," according to the New York Workers' Compensation Alliance. Specifically, a study released Sept. 11 by the NY WCA found that:
- Average award for injured workers would be cut by 84 percent, from $18,873 to $3,023.
- 88 percent of workers would see their benefits cut to essentially zero.
- 14 out 17 workers would receive no compensation at all for a permanent injury.
In April, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law the proposed New Permanent Impairment Guidelines, which are part of Workers' Compensation Law (WCL) § 15(3)(x), according to a Sept. 6 announcement by the state Workers' Compensation Board. But the proposed guidelines were not published until Sept. 1, shortly before midnight on Labor Day weekend, Pasternack said, adding that the board "buried" the 81-page proposal on its website, making them "impossible to find." The proposed changes can be found here.
If approved, the new guidelines will go into effect on Jan. 1. Public comment will be accepted for 45 days until Oct. 23. The Board has provided a link for public comments, but Pasternack doubts the board will take such comments seriously. "The Board deliberately created a cumbersome comment link that makes it difficult for New York workers to respond. They don't want feedback. They don't want dialogue. They want to push these new guidelines through as quickly and quietly as possible."
Pasternack urged citizens of New York to directly contact the Board and politicians to express their opposition to this proposal. "The public needs to speak out and put pressure on the Board, the Governor and our legislature to stop these cruel changes from going into effect," Pasternack said. "The health and well-being of potentially every worker in New York is on the line. This needs to be stopped."