Inside Corporate America’s Campaign to Ditch Workers’ Comp

In Oklahoma, and in Texas employers are allowed to opt out of workers compensation coverage. They are supposed to supply some benefit, but at least in Oklahoma, there is no state regulation of the plans. As you might suspect injured workers do not fare well in this system.

One Texas lawyer is helping companies opt out of workers’ compensation and write their own rules. What does it mean for injured workers?

by Michael Grabell, ProPublica, and Howard Berkes, NPR
October 14, 2015

STANDING BEFORE A GIANT MAP in his Dallas office, Bill Minick doesn’t seem like anyone’s idea of a bomb thrower. But backed by some of the biggest names in corporate America, this mild-mannered son of an evangelist is plotting a revolution in how companies take care of injured workers.

His idea: Let them opt out of state workers’ compensation laws — and write their own rules.
Minick swept his hand past pushpins marking the headquarters of Walmart, McDonald’s and dozens of his other well-known clients, and hailed his plan as not only cheaper for employers, but better for workers too.

“We’re talking about reengineering one of the pillars of social justice that has not seen significant innovation in 100 years,” Minick said.
Minick’s quest sounds implausible, but he’s already scored significant victories.

Many of the nation’s biggest retail, trucking, health care and food companies have already opted out in Texas, where Minick pioneered the concept as a young lawyer. Oklahoma recently passed a law co-written by Minick allowing companies to opt out there. Tennessee and South Carolina are seriously considering similar measures. And with a coalition led by executives from Walmart, Nordstrom and Lowe’s, Minick has launched a campaign to get laws passed in as many as a dozen states within the next decade.

But as Minick’s opt-out movement marches across the country, there has been little scrutiny of what it means for workers.

ProPublica and NPR obtained the injury benefit plans of nearly 120 companies who have opted out in Texas or Oklahoma — many of them written by Minick’s firm — to conduct the first independent analysis of how these plans compare to state workers’ comp.

The investigation found the plans almost universally have lower benefits, more restrictions and virtually no independent oversight.

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