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Senate vote sends Gov. Greitens legislation to reverse two costly workers’ compensation court rulings

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When someone is injured on the job, Missouri’s workers’ compensation system ensures there are resources available to help that person recover and return to work. The Missouri Senate has voted to protect this vital employer-funded program from two costly Missouri Supreme Court rulings. The bill, Senate Bill 66, sponsored by Sen. Dave Schatz, a Republican from Sullivan, now goes to Gov. Eric Greitens for his signature.

Templemire v. W & M Welding opened up Missouri employers to greater lawsuit liability under workers’ compensation laws. The 2014 Missouri ruling eroded the standard for which terminated or otherwise aggrieved employees must prove to succeed in a discrimination claim against Missouri employers.  After Templemire, employees only have to prove a prior workers’ compensation claim was a “contributing factor” in their dismissal or demotion in order to win a lawsuit claiming wrongful discharge or retaliation.  This disregards 30 years of case law requiring a prior workers’ compensation claim be the “exclusive” reason for the employee’s discharge or other retaliatory act. This bill addresses that ruling.

The base legislation addresses another Supreme Court ruling, Greer v. Sysco Foods, which allows workers to re-open their workers’ compensation claims if they decide to seek additional medical treatments—even years after a doctor says they have recovered. This change stops employers from ever getting closure on workers’ compensation claims. The bill addresses this concern by stopping temporary workers’ compensation benefits once an employee reaches maximum medical improvement, the point when a physician determines the employee’s condition is stable and is not expected to further improve.

“When a worker is hurt, nothing is more important than getting that person the help they need. Employers support this system and are compelled to get their staff members better and back on the job,” said Brian Bunten, Missouri Chamber general counsel and director of legislative affairs. “Our workers’ compensation system was established to strike a balance between employers and employees so that injured workers could get help quickly and efficiently. The courts have tipped that balance and we appreciate lawmakers work to make it right.”

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry is the largest business association in Missouri. Together, with the Missouri Chamber Federation, the Missouri Chamber represents more than 75,000 employers. To learn more, go to www.mochamber.com, or follow us @MissouriChamber on Twitter.

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