AIM work comp and unemployment priorities receive Senate approval
The Missouri Senate gave its final approval to Senate Bill 1 (Sen. Scott Rupp, R-St. Charles) and Senate Bill 28 (Sen. Will Kraus, R-Raytown) this morning to help Missouri employers with worker’s compensation and unemployment concerns.
Senate Bill 1 contains important reforms for the Second Injury Fund and occupational disease costs that have long been a priority of Associated Industries of Missouri, while Senate Bill 28 addresses concerns toward employees who are dismissed for just reasons, yet qualify for unemployment.
“Senate Bill 1 and 28 both help solve growing concerns,” said Ray McCarty, president of AIM. “While Senate Bill 1 is not what AIM originally set out to accomplish, the compromise the Senate approved does help AIM’s membership. Senate Bill 28 also addresses concerns that AIM has received from our members, including one employee who was dismissed for reading her supervisor’s private documents but received unemployment benefits despite her offenses. This is unacceptable.”
Senate Bill 1, in its current form, ensures coverage for “occupational diseases” under worker’s compensation but establishes special enhanced benefit for 10 diseases at $156,000. The bill then spreads the cost by paying the claims from Missouri’s Second Injury Fund. It also allows mesothelioma victims an additional benefit of $450,000 (total of $600,000) paid from the Second Injury Fund.
To pay for these benefits, an additional Second Injury Fund surcharge will be assessed against every Missouri employer. AIM will continue to work for positive changes in this part of the bill, including establishment of a reasonable cap on the amount of the surcharge that may be assessed.
The Second Injury Fund would be reformed by eliminating permanent partial disability claims. These claims currently cause an “absurd” result in workers that are more than 100 percent disabled and are still able to work. Eliminating the permanent partial disability claims will end this illogical practice, says McCarty.
Permanent total disability claims that are the result of a previous work related injury, that are related to military service, or that are aggravated or accelerated by a previous injury would still be allowed. Other claims that are currently allowed against the Fund for non-work related injuries or conditions would no longer be allowed under the bill. The interest rate on pending claims would be nearly cut in half, and other reforms that AIM has advocated would be implemented under Senate Bill 1.
In addition to Senate Bill 1’s worker’s compensation reforms, Senate Bill 28 improves labor concerns pertaining to unemployment benefits being paid to employees who are dismissed for “good cause” but receive unemployment benefits.
“AIM had two perfect examples for why this legislation is necessary,” said McCarty. “In one case, an employee was caught reading her supervisor’s private business materials. In another example, an employee was fired for speeding while driving a delivery truck for his employer. Despite being warned, the speeding continued. When both employees were dismissed, they were able to receive unemployment benefits. Employers should not have to pay law violators. Period.”