Opt-Out Act in Oklahoma… and Beyond?!

Today’s post was shared by WC CompNewsNetwork and comes from www.workerscompensation.com

Oklahoma City, OK (WorkersCompensation.com) – In September of 2016, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the 2013 revision to the state’s workers’ compensation laws contained the Opt-Out Act, which violated the Oklahoma Constitution. Under this Act, an employer could opt out of participating in the Oklahoma workers’ compensation system and instead establish an employee benefit plan, which would be governed by federal law under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

In the case of Vasquez v. Dillards, the claimant, Jonnie Vasquez, alleged an injury to her shoulder that occurred as a result of lifting boxes in the Dillard’s store where she worked. Dillard’s initially provided benefits but then stopped because it alleged she had a pre-existing condition. The claim was slated to go to a hearing before the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission, and that’s where the Opt-Out Act became important.

Dillard’s argued that the claim should be heard in federal court as it has jurisdiction over ERISA matters. The federal court in Oklahoma disagreed and sent the case back to the Commission, which held that the Opt-Out Act violated the state constitution in part because it provided for different remedies (federal court vs. state employment commission) for claims.

Dillard’s appealed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which agreed with the Commission’s conclusion and held that the Opt-Out Act “creates…

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