Albany Update: Big I NY Calls for Veto of Harmful Workers Comp Bills

This week, we joined over forty business associations representing virtually every sector of the state’s economy in urging Governor Hochul to veto three harmful workers compensation bills.​ If enacted, they would increase workers’ compensation benefits by millions of dollars, resulting in higher costs and premiums for all New York State businesses, especially small businesses, at a time when they are contending with unrelenting economic challenge.

  • A.1118 (Bronson)/S.768 (Gounardes) redefines temporary total disability, marking a fundamental shift in the definition of disability and how wage replacement amounts are determined in New York State. This bill upends case law by allowing for unlimited awards at the temporary total rate for employees with mild or moderate partial disabilities. Under existing law, when a doctor finds that an employee has partially recovered from an injury, that employee must either seek out work that is commensurate with their degree of disability or risk losing their indemnity benefits. As passed, this bill would automatically qualify injured employees to receive benefits at the higher disability rate if it was determined they could not return to their pre-injury employment or a modified position. This will lead to significant and extremely damaging cost increases for the workers’ compensation system. Many businesses, especially small businesses, do not have the financial or practical ability to accommodate light-duty work, and long-standing workers’ compensation law recognized that important dynamic. This bill abandons the long-held tenets of workers’ compensation law.
  • A.2020-A (Reyes)/S.8373-B (Savino) expands the statutory carve-out that applies to police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians who filed a claim for mental injury premised upon extraordinary work-related stress to include all employees. This bill will permit all employees who allege extraordinary work-related stress to file a mental stress claim irrespective of a work-related emergency. Law Judges will determine what qualifies as “extraordinary,” a standard that is not defined by statute, which will result in extensive litigation. Additionally, the bill would transfer the cost of treatment and disability for psychological conditions that are not currently considered work-related to the workers’ compensation system. The cost to the system would be substantial.
  • A.7178-A (Joyner)/S.8271-A (Sanders) would increase the minimum amount of compensation from $150 to not less than 1/5 of Statewide Average Weekly Wage (SAWW) or employee’s full wages if equal to or less than 1/5 of SAWW. The current minimum weekly indemnity rate for employees who earn more than $150 per week is $150. If enacted, this bill would grant employees who sustain accidents after June 30, 2022, to almost double the current minimum indemnity rate of $150 per week (weekly indemnity benefits would increase to no less than $337.64, which is 1/5 of the current SAWW of $1,688.19). Employees with wages less than or, equal to $337.64 per week would receive full salaries. The impact of this legislation would be most felt by businesses with part-time, seasonal, or lower-wage employees, and may deter employees from returning to work, exacerbating the labor shortage and keeping New York’s unemployment rate higher than the national average.

Currently, none of these bills have been sent to the Governor’s desk, however they must be sent before the end of the year. Once they are sent, the Governor has ten days to sign or veto them.

Contact Scott Hobson with any questions.