LANSING, Mich. (AP) – Legislation that could help employers reduce costs related to compensating workers injured on the job was approved Wednesday by the Republican-led Michigan House.
The chamber approved the bill by a 59-49, mostly party line vote. The bill advances to the Republican-led Senate.
Republicans say the measure updates Michigan’s workers’ compensation laws, reflects recent court rulings and could help crack down on fraud while encouraging injured workers to seek some type of employment when they’re able.
The proposal clarifies that a “personal injury” would be one sustained while working or as a result of the job. It also distinguishes between total and partial disability.
“Michigan’s workers’ compensation law has been causing confusion for business owners and employees for too long and these changes will eliminate that confusion and help reduce the need for court cases to settle workers’ comp claims,” Bradford Jacobsen, a Republican from Oxford and sponsor of the bill, said in a statement.
The changes are supported by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which says the legislation balances the needs of injured workers and employers who finance the workers’ comp system.
Democrats opposing the measure say it could become harder for injured employees to receive benefits they deserve. Opponents also are concerned that injured workers seeking to get a second medical opinion or visit their own doctors would have to do so at their own expense.
Measures that could require workers to look for lower-paying, alternative jobs once they’re partially restored to health also prompted criticism from Democrats. They said the measures could drastically reduce benefits for partially disabled workers.
Rep. Jon Switalski, D-Warren, questioned whether an injured police officer not physically able to return to law enforcement could be expected to take a job as a telemarketer rather than risk losing benefits during rehabilitation.
“This is not reform,” Switalski said in a statement. “This is regression.”
The Michigan AFL-CIO said the bill is a “”major step in the wrong direction.”
The changes to the law would not affect those currently receiving benefits or those with pending claims.
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