Yesterday (April 28, 2015), the Supreme Court of Oklahoma, in a 7–2 vote, declined to assume original jurisdiction in a civil action challenging the constitutionality of the state’s new and controversial law that allows employers to “opt out” of the state-run workers’ compensation system. I discussed the case in some detail in an April 13 post.
In an article by investigative reporter, Randy Ellis, published late yesterday in The Oklahoman, Bill Minick, President of PartnerSource, a firm that has helped craft many of the opt out plans for Oklahoma employers, is reported to have said that he believes the Court is giving the “green light” to adopt opt-out plans. In the long run that may turn out to be correct, but yesterday’s decision is a far cry from an actual determination that Oklahoma’s opt out law passes constitutional muster. The constitutional challenge to the law continues unabated; yesterday’s decision has no bearing on the merits of the case.
Minich’s optimism is echoed by John Doak, Oklahoma’s Insurance Commissioner. In a press release issued yesterday by the Commissioner, Doak said that his “department has worked to ensure that we are following both the letter and the spirit of the law so that the benefits provided by employers to protect their employees are exactly what our Legislature and Governor developed.”
Apparently the “spirit of the law” allows an opt out employer to require notice of injury by the end of the work shift, rather than within the one-year period prescribed in Okla. Stat. tit. 85A, §69; a plan containing such a short notice period was approved by the Commissioner’s office in favor of Dillard’s, Inc., the department store employer.