The Oklahoma Supreme Court issued a decision yesterday declaring part of the state’s workers’ comp reform statute unconstitutional. This latest development comes less than a week after the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) invalidated the opt-out portion of the legislation – a decision which is also expected to reach the state’s top court. In this case, Torres v. Seaboard Foods, the plaintiff filed a claim for compensation for a cumulative trauma injury . The administrative law judge sided with the employer and denied the claim because Torres had not worked a cumulative 180 days for Seaboard Foods and the WCC (acting essentially as an appellate court) later affirmed that ruling.
Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the 180 day rule as delineated by the Oklahoma Legislature “[…] violates the Due Process section of the Oklahoma Constitution when applied to employee because the statute’s overinclusive and underinclusive classifications are not rationally related to legitimate State interests of (1) preventing workers’ compensation fraud and (2) decreasing employers’ costs.”
Bob Burke, who represented the claimant in this case and also in last week’s landmark opt-out case, told WorkCompCentral that he does not know if this decision reveals anything about how the Supreme Court might view opt-out, but that the they “spoke volumes” in the 50 page document.
Read the decision (relevant pdf pages 5-54) here: Oklahoma Supreme Court Torres v Seaboard Foods