As the holiday season approaches, households are facing some big expenses. According to National Retail Federation, families are expected to spend in excess of $800 this holiday season.
If you cannot work due to a workplace injury, you may face financial hardship and have a difficult holiday season. Workers' compensation is supposed to protect injured workers from financial hardship, but workers' comp programs are not working as effectively as they should be. Workers face harm over the holidays as a result of the failure of states to protect their rights after an injury.
In New York, workers get lost wages benefits if they are totally disabled or partially disabled due to their work injury. These benefits begin once the worker has missed at least seven days of work. Benefits received are based on how disabled you are. For example, workers get 2/3 of their average weekly wages if they are 100 percent disabled. If they are only partially disabled, the 2/3 of their weekly wage amount is multiplied by the percentage of disability to determine the amount of benefits they are entitled to receive.
Not having your full salary coming in can be a big hardship as you try to cope with holiday costs. Unfortunately, in recent years, things have become worse for injured workers within New York. ProPublica published a report indicating states were changing their laws in ways that hurt workers, either by making it harder to qualify for workers' compensation, by making it harder to get specific needed benefits, or by reducing coverage. ProPublica identified 33 states where benefits were cut, and this chart makes clear New York was one of those states.
The situation with states cutting benefits has become serious enough to prompt federal lawmakers to take action. NPR reported 10 democratic senators sent a letter urging action in the wake of the ProPublica research. To respond to the senators, the Department of Labor put together a report with several proposals for change.
The Department of Labor suggested a commission could be put together to set minimum standards for the state programs administered to protect workers hurt on-the-job. There were such commissions in place in the 1970's during the Nixon era. If the commission discovers a state's program is providing inadequate protection to workers by falling below standards, this could prompt federal intervention. Department of Labor also suggested congress could create basic minimum guidelines for workers' comp and failure to conform to the expectations would result in federal oversight of the stat's workers' comp program.
These types of changes on the federal level aren't likely any time soon as the federal government grapples with the results of an election in which the executive branch transitions from President Obama to President Elect Trump. Unfortunately, workers may continue to suffer if no changes are made to stop states from cutting benefits.