Workers’ compensation legislation seen as a victory for business and a setback for workers’ rights passed the Mississippi Legislature Monday.
The bill sponsored by Sen. Will Longwitz (R – Madison) is touted as encouraging economic growth, creating safer workplaces and ensuring fair and impartial administration of justice.
Longwitz said the reforms are designed to return fairness to a system that has become biased against businesses and hostile to economic growth. The reforms provide fair and impartial treatment for all parties, supporters say, though they do note some elements of the bill are designed to free employers from having to worry about lawsuits relating to safety in the workplace.
Further, the changes benefit workers by significantly increasing worker benefits for rehabilitation assistance, survivor benefits and funeral benefits, supporters say.
Advocates for workers say, however, the measures will make it more difficult for employees to secure compensation for work-related injuries. The new rules allow employers to limit compensation payouts based on “pre-existing” conditions a worker may have.
In some instances, workers will be shut out entirely from any compensation for injuries received on the job, opponents of the bill say.
The measure sent to Gov. Phil Bryant allows admissibility of all drug tests a worker has taken.
Further, the bill reestablishes apportionment of liability for pre-existing conditions.