180 Day Rule Overturned, Opt Out Questioned
Recent Decisions Question the 2014 Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Act

Sections of the 2014 Oklahoma Workers'

 

Compensation Act have been Overturned

 

Oklahoma Supreme Court Overturns the

 

180 Day Rule

 

The Supreme Court recently determined that the 180 day rule for cumulative trauma injuries was unconstitutional. 
 
Beginning on February 1, 2014, the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act set requirements for a compensable cumulative trauma claim, in part finding that, "the employee shall have completed at least one hundred eighty (180) days of continuous active employment with the employer." Prior to that time, there was no minimum time requirement. This provision eliminated the ability for an employee to pursue a cumulative trauma claim if they have not been with the employer for six months.
 
In Torres v. Seaboard Foods, LLC., 2016 OK 20, the Supreme Court ruled the 180 day requirement violates the Oklahoma Constitution.  Therefore, the law will revert back to no minimum time requirement for the allegation of a cumulative trauma injury.
 
Of particular note, Claimant argued a violation of the "Grand Bargain" citing forty-two (42) provisions of the new Administrative Workers' Compensation Act, wherein the employee's benefits were inadequate.  The Court, having already found the 180 rule unconstitutional, did not entertain this argument.  This, however, is the first of many decisions we are expecting from the Supreme Court this year.  It is anticipated that the breach of the Grand Bargain and how it erodes exclusive remedy protections will be a common theme.
 
This is a final decision.

 

 

 

Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Commission Rules on

 

the "Opt-Out" Provision

 

The Oklahoma Workers Compensation Commission recently ruled on the "Opt-Out" provision of the new statute.  This provision allowed employers to "opt out" of the State's workers' compensation system and establish their own employee benefit plan.  In Jonnie Vasquez v. Dillard's, benefits were denied to an employee because her injury did not fit the employer's own definition of injury in the plan they created. 
 
The Commission found that sections of the employer created plan deprived their employees of their equal protection rights as well as creating an impermissible class of injured workers without access to the court.  The Commission decision is the first decision addressing the constitutionality of the Opt-Out provision. 
 
This is a  Commission decision and is therefore not final.  We anticipate further appeals.


 

 

 

Looking Forward

There are many pending decisions challenging various aspects of the 2014 Oklahoma Law changes.  MVP will continue to monitor all of these cases and provide additional updates. 

As always, if you have any questions about these decisions or any other Oklahoma issues, feel free to contact an MVP attorney!

 

Background on the Act

 

On February 1, 2014 the Oklahoma Legislature Reformed the Workers' Compensation Act. 
 
Some of these changes included adding provisions allowing a qualified employer to "opt out" of the provisions of the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act and set up their own employee benefit plan.