Oklahoma’s opt-out program was ruled unconstitutional by the state’s Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) on Friday, after a previous hearing two days earlier in the week had placed the issue under advisement. In comments emailed to Louisiana Comp Blog, attorney Bob Burke, who has represented several claimants in suits against the program since its inception in 2011, explained that the two cases, Pilkington v. Dillard’s and Vasquez v. Dillard’s, centered around a motion for summary judgment filed by Dillard’s in which it claims that ERISA, not state law, controls all aspects of the two workers’ claims for benefits. Burke explained further:
“[We] argued that the entire opt-out scheme is unconstitutional as a blatant denial of due process and equal protection under the federal and state constitutions; that the opt-out law is unconstitutional because it is a special law and treats Oklahoma injured workers differently; and that Dillard’s has failed to write a benefit plan that provides even near the same benefits as afforded workers under the Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act.”
The WCC accepted that argument and issued a written order declaring Sections 203 and 209 of the Oklahoma Employee Injury Benefit Act (the opt-out statute) unconstitutional.