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Friday, January 11, 2013

Downton Abbey and Workers' Compensation

Highclere Castle
Highclere Castle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The PBS series, Downton Abbey, has many parallels to the nation's workers' compensation system and reflects how outdated the present benefit system is to meet current needs of injured workers.

The critically acclaimed fictional British TV series, that begins a 3rd broadcast season this month in the US. The first season was set in 1912, with the sinking the RMS Titanic and the outbreak of World War I. 

 The drama concerns itself with non-working aristocratic elite who had amassed multitudes of wealth and were land barrons. The post-Edwardian era Crawley family had a large entourage of servants, who worked 
"downstairs," at low pay and no benefits, providing services to the heirs of Downton Abbey, a lavish estate in England.

It mirrors the era of the enactment of the original European, and thereafter adopted US, workers'  compensation programs. The system provided an administrative remedy to provide a summary, remedial system of benefits to workers in lieu of a trial by jury in the civil justice system.

While workers' compensation is not explicitly mentioned in the TV series, the viewer can gain an understanding of the perspective of the oppressed employees who devoted their lives to the land owning family and considered it an honor and privilege to stay in their employ. Dedication to the employer resulted in lifelong career positions with little complaint of working conditions and lack of benefits.

The British aristocracy system portrayed in the Downton Abbey soon fell into economic ruin, as did the entire British workers' compensation system, yielding to a better medical delivery system and socialized benefits. 

On the other side of "the pond," in the US, the program has just persisted with more money going to the richest individuals, reflected in with major compensation packages. On the other hand, working Americans have lost jobs, benefits, and income as the nation's economy continues to decline. The US needs to adjust the benefit system to approach what the European Economic Union has achieved.

The second Obama Administration is beng recomposed with a Cabinet to achieve a better funded and structured benefit system. Hopefully a better benefit system will be formulated for injured workers and their families.