Business leaders, attorneys clash over changing workers comp

Business owners and personal injury attorneys are butting heads over the proposed Justice for Injured Workers Actwhich would increase workers compensation for milder injuries and make it easier for injured workers to seek additional benefits during their recovery.

The bill, which passed the Senate and Assembly in the final hours of legislative session, is headed for Gov. Kathy Hochul’s desk. If signed into law, a worker who is partially disabled due to a workplace injury will receive the full benefit awarded employees with a total disability throughout their recovery unless the employer can provide suitable, light-duty work.

“This bill will make it more accessible for workers to receive the benefits they deserve when they are injured in the workplace,” bill sponsor Sen. Andrew Gounardes said. “It will clarify the definition of temporary total disability under New York state law as the injured employee’s inability to perform his or her pre-injury employment duties, and it will encourage employers to offer light-duty work when able to injured employees, rather than simply terminating them while they are unable to perform their full work duties.”

The bill provides a legal definition for temporary total disability in state law, which previously did not exist.

Workers injured to total disability traditionally get two-thirds of their average weekly wage for a set amount of time. The benefit is often reduced before an employee is cleared to return to work to a percentage of the original benefit depending on the severity of the injury. The proposed legislation would also prohibit a court from using the Wage Compensation Board’s prior decision about an injured worker’s case to deny them an additional trial about their claim.

Business leaders say the changes to the state’s worker’s compensation system would devastate small businesses already struggling to stay afloat amid

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