The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in a recent decision that the state’s opt-out law is unconstitutional, thereby nullifying the Employee Injury Benefit Act.
According to the Supreme Court, the said law is invalid because it created a separate and distinct class of employees subject to exemptions from the existing workers’ compensation rules. It can also be considered a violation of the special law provision under the state’s constitution.
The 7-2 decision threw out Dillard’s claim that their injured employee Jonie Vasquez (Vasquez v. Dillards) was not entitled to workers’ compensation under the opt-out law because it “creates impermissible, unequal, disparate treatment of a select group of workers,” the ruling said.
Meanwhile, the American Insurance Association (AIA) lauded the court’s decision.
Fred C. Bosse, AIA southwest region vice president, told reporters: “Over this past year, the Workers’ Compensation Commission and the Supreme Court carefully examined these serious constitutional issues and rendered very sound opinions.”
“Moving forward, AIA is ready to review meaningful ways to reform the workers’ compensation system. However, all solutions must focus on making sure that the system achieves its key purpose – getting the injured worker back to work. Today’s decision reaffirms that having the ability to opt-out of the state’s workers’ compensation system would terminate meaningful state oversight and reaffirms that employers must meet basic obligations to their workers,” he concluded.