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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Judge rules Florida workers' compensation law unconstitutional

The emasculation of the US workers' compensation system continues as the economic unbalance in the nation has escalates. Ironically the latest assault is a successful constitutional challenged by the organized bar of diminishing legal representatives of injured workers. The judicial decision may result in potential political upheaval as Florida is facing an upcoming gubernatorial election. More importantly the decision is yet another signal that workers' compensation as a social remedial legislation has failed to dynamically adapt to its changing role in the nation's evolving medical delivery network and disability benefit structure.

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The 11th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida [official website] in Miami on Wednesday ruled [order, PDF] that Florida's workers' compensation law [text] is unconstitutional. Prior to the ruling, Attorney General Pam Bondi [official website] issued a response [text, PDF] to the court's order to show cause, asking the court to rule the law as unconstitutional in the form of an advisory opinion. In his ruling, Judge Jorge Cueto stated that the law is the exclusive remedy for injured workers, and therefore, only under rare circumstances can they sue their employers. Pursuant to Florida Supreme Court precedent, to be a constitutional worker's compensation act, it must provide some level of permanent partial disability benefit. Because it does not provide these remedies, the judge found that the act does is not an adequate replacement for the tort remedies that it supplanted.

Workers' rights continue to be an issue in the US. Last month, the US Supreme Court [official website] granted certiorari [JURIST report] in eight cases, including Young v. United Parcel Service [docket; cert. petition, PDF]. In that case, the court will consider whether, and in what circumstances, an employer that provides work accommodations to non-pregnant employees with work limitations must provide work accommodations to pregnant employees who are "similar in their ability or inability to work."