Oklahoma Opt Out Option Wins Two Legal Battles
The Oklahoma opt out option scored another large victory with the refusal of the state’s Supreme Court to review a recent decision rendered by the Appeals Court. I track Oklahoma’s WC news closely as that is where I grew up and was trained in insurance.
The Oklahoma Opt Out option went into effect on January 1, 2014. There have been two major challenges to it including the recent Judy Pilkington et al. v. State of Oklahoma et al case that basically said the plaintiffs were denied due process. The Workers Comp claims of Judy Pilkington and the other plaintiffs were denied by their employer.
In 2013, a lawsuit was filed by The Oklahoma Professional Firefighters Association challenging the constitutionality of the new Oklahoma Opt Out law. The Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected the challenge in December 2013. The Court SB 1062 “is not unconstitutional as a multiple-subject bill.” The challenge was that each Senate Bill should only cover one subject and this was a multi-subject bill.
One passage from the original lawsuit filed in the Pilkington case may make one stop and think:
There is no due process protection in allowing an Oklahoma employer to OPT OUT of the statutory workers’ compensation system, set up its own benefit plan, make all the decisions regarding benefits, determine who and how a plan can be reviewed, and have total control of the development of the record for appeal. Nowhere along the way is there an agency or court or unbiased tribunal to look at the merits of an injured worker’s case. OPT OUT employers are allowed to replace a judge with a committee chosen by the employer. That flies in the face of the federal and state constitutions.
Do Workers Comp plans owe the injured employee due process under the law? That is a very interesting point. Can a committee chosen by an employer actually make decisions that have the force of law?
The Oklahoma Opt Out provisions will have more challenges in the future.
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