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Legislature Eyes Changes To Workman’s Comp Laws

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 14 Mar 2012 05:40pm | comments
Jaribu Hill denounces the changes.

A bill that could put new requirements for workman's compensation claims for Mississippians injured on the job is facing a split fate in the Mississippi legislature.

Supporters of the changes say it is about fairness for workers and businesses....but opponents, like catfish farm worker Sarah White, believe it will only make it tougher for injured workers to get compensation.

"In a minute a worker can cut his finger off. He can slip and fall and hurt his back. He can be finned by a catfish fin. Workers are being injured and not getting the benefit that they are due," White said.

White was among a group of activists that met at the capitol yesterday opposing a pair of bills that would to make changes to the state's workmen's comp laws.

Some of the changes would include raising the burden of proof that the injury or death is work related, clarifying drug and alcohol testing rules, as well as raising the compensation for certain types of work related injuries or death.

Jaribu Hill with the Mississippi Workers Center for Human Rights is opposing the bills saying workers need the protection because the workplace relationship is inherently balanced toward the employer.

"They have all the power and the representation is already limited. The protection is woefully insufficient. And it will be more so if bills like 2576 and house bill 555 are passed. we would have even less protection and workers would have less avenues for relief," Hill said.

But advocates for changing the law say those protections have gone too far and now put Mississippi businesses at an unfair disadvantage.

Daniel Gibson is with the Mississippi Association of Self-Insurers, a group representing some Mississippi businesses.

Gibson says the changes would return the law to its original intent of treating employees and employers equally.

"We also believe that injured works have a right to a fair court, as does the employer. That is why we are support a return to fair and impartial interpretation of the law," Gibson said.

The house version of the bill failed by a vote of 53 to 60....while the senate bill passed with 39 of the 52 senators supporting it.

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Jaribu Hill denounces the changes.


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