Legal Trends

Workers’ Comp: Rulings, Regulations and Reform

A recent webinar offered an outline of legal and regulatory changes that employers should be aware of.
By: | July 20, 2017 • 5 min read

Workers’ compensation rulings are starting to see trends, which is why Marsh & McLennan Companies urges employers to stay on top of the evolving legal decisions being made. Court rulings and changes to workers’ comp law not only affect employers but can also affect the workers’ compensation program itself.

During the July 19 webinar “Workers’ Compensation’s Evolving Legal and Regulatory Landscape,” Marsh’s Workers’ Compensation Center of Excellence hosted a panel of risk experts keen on discussing the recent legal and regulatory changes seen on the workers’ comp front, from unconstitutional practices to OSHA regulations.

Legal Rulings and Workers’ Comp Reform

Dennis Tierney, director of workers’ compensation claims at Marsh, and Scott Lefkowitz, a partner at Oliver Wyman Actuarial Consulting, spoke on the effects recent court cases may have on workers’ comp nationally.


Florida, Alabama, Kentucky and Pennsylvania have all seen rulings that could spark a trend for other states, noted Tierney. He said that in these recent cases, each state’s justice system ruled pieces of its existing workers’ comp law unconstitutional.

In Florida, the Supreme Court found it unconstitutional to cut off disability benefits after 104 weeks to a worker who is totally disabled yet has not reached maximum medical improvement. Alabama ruled that the $220 a week cap in compensation was unconstitutional. Kentucky now requires all permanent partial disability income benefits be paid a full 425 or 520 weeks regardless of an employee’s age at time of injury, and Pennsylvania removed employer access to impairment ratings evaluations.

So, what does this mean for employers?

In Florida, companies have already seen a 14.5 percent rate increase in workers’ comp. Tierney said that while Alabama’s impact is still pending, Kentucky’s decision could be a game changer. Now, employees near social security retirement age are entitled to the full 425 or 520 weeks of permanent partial disability.

So far, the state has seen a 5 percent increase in claims costs. In Pennsylvania, the panel suggested employers seek an alternative practice to modify claimants’ statuses.

Tierney said these rulings show that judges are looking at workers’ comp programs and are listening to what other states say. Employers could see workers’ comp costs increase, he added, so it’s a good idea to work with claims adjusters, brokers, TPAs, attorneys and everyone involved to keep workers’ comp plans up-to-date and in compliance with state regulations.

As for reform bills, Tierney and Lefkowitz point to a few decisions of interest to employers:

  • New York State Senate Bill S4520: Any difference in compensation rate paid during a period of temporary disability and the rate of payment after classification of permanent disability will be paid by the employer in weekly installments.
  • Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission: To create a more even payment plan, Virginia split its state into six unique medical communities in order to set up a medical fee schedule. The schedule outlines maximum fees for health care services for injured workers.
  • Iowa House File 518: Six major changes were made to the Iowa workers’ comp laws. Most notably, late fees have been minimized for employers who fail to pay benefits on time, limitations were placed on how much an attorney makes in legal fees, PPD payments are not made until the employee reached MMI, and more.
  • New Mexico Senate Bill 155: This bill limits workers’ comp temporary total disability and permanent partial disability benefits for injured workers who leave their current employers or fail to accept a job offer.
  • California Senate Bill 1160: All liens in the state of California have added requirements to verify that each lien is legitimate, filed only by the lien holder and the liens owned by providers who have been indicted or charged with crimes be held until the disposition of criminal proceedings.

Tierney added that it is important for employers to know about any changes to workers’ comp laws and how they could potentially affect their workers’ comp programs. Be flexible to implement new changes, he said.

OSHA Rulings and Regulations

When it comes to worker safety and OSHA, Allen Gilley, managing director at Marsh, said the focus and priorities have not changed within the organization since inauguration day six months ago.

Trump’s proposed budget would not significantly affect OSHA, and Gilley noted that the tone of the organization has not altered since the new administration took office.  He cautioned, however, that employers could see a change in OSHA enforcements when the new Assistant Secretary of Labor is appointed.

In the meantime, Gilley said employers should be focused on the existing expectations from OSHA. A handful of rules and regulations established under the Obama administration are in effect or will be within the next few months, most notably:

The final ruling on crystalline silica dust. Construction sites have until September 23 to comply with OSHA’s ruling on silica dust. The permissible exposure limit was reduced to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, which requires employers to use engineering controls to limit exposure, provide respirators, develop a written exposure control plan, offer medical exams to highly exposed workers and increase training on how to avoid silica exposure.


And, the final ruling on tracking workplace injuries. In its continued effort to improve safety for workers across the nation, OSHA changed the way injury and illness are tracked in the workplace — through electronically submitted records.

Organizations employing more than 250 workers must submit electronic records of onsite OSHA Injury and Illness forms. Though many employers believe this is a breach of employee privacy, OSHA stands firm that the practice will motivate employers to focus on safety in the workplace.

The electronic system is set to go live August 1, with a compliance date of December 1.

Marsh held this third webinar in a four-part series on Wednesday, July 19, 2017. The next webinar in the series will take place Wednesday, November 8, 2017.

Autumn Heisler is a staff writer at Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

Janet Sheiner, VP of risk management and real estate at AMN Healthcare Services Inc., sees innovation as an answer to fast-evolving and emerging risks.
By: | March 5, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

As a kid, bagging groceries. My first job out of school, part-time temp secretary.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

Risk management picks you; you don’t necessarily pick it. I came into it from a regulatory compliance angle. There’s a natural evolution because a lot of your compliance activities also have the effect of managing your risk.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?


There’s much benefit to grounding strategic planning in an ERM framework. That’s a great innovation in the industry, to have more emphasis on ERM. I also think that risk management thought leaders are casting themselves more as enablers of business, not deterrents, a move in the right direction.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

Justified or not, risk management functions are often viewed as the “Department of No.” We’ve worked hard to cultivate a reputation as the “Department of Maybe,” so partners across the organization see us as business enablers. That reputation has meant entertaining some pretty crazy ideas, but our willingness to try and find a way to “yes” tempered with good risk management has made all the difference.

Janet Sheiner, VP, Risk Management & Real Estate, AMN Healthcare Services Inc.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

San Diego, of course!  America’s Finest City has the infrastructure, Convention Center, hotels, airport and public transportation — plus you can’t beat our great weather! The restaurant scene is great, not to mention those beautiful coastal views.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

The emergence of risk management as a distinct profession, with four-year degree programs and specific academic curriculum. Now I have people on my team who say their goal is to be a risk manager. I said before that risk management picks you, but we’re getting to a point where people pick it.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?


The commercial insurance market’s ability to innovate to meet customer demand. Businesses need to innovate to stay relevant, and the commercial market needs to innovate with us.  Carriers have to be willing to take on more risk and potentially take a loss to meet the unique and evolving risks companies are facing.

R&I: Of which insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion?

Beazley. They have been an outstanding partner to AMN. They are responsive, flexible and reasonable.  They have evolved with us. They have an appreciation for risk management practices we’ve organically woven into our business, and by extension, this makes them more comfortable with taking on new risks with us.

R&I: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the U.S. health care industry and why?

I am very optimistic about the health care industry. We have an aging population with burgeoning health care needs, coupled with a decreasing supply of health care providers — that means we have to get smarter about how we manage health care. There’s a lot of opportunity for thought leaders to fill that gap.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Professionally, AMN Healthcare General Counsel, Denise Jackson, has enabled me to do the best work I’ve ever done, and better than I thought I could do.  Personally, my husband Andrew, a second-grade teacher, who has a way of putting things into a human perspective.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

In my early 20s, I set a goal for the “corner office.” I achieved that when I became vice president.  I received a ‘Values in Practice’ award for trust at AMN. The nomination came from team members I work with every day, and I was incredibly humbled and honored.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

The noir genre, so anything by Raymond Chandler in books. For movies,  “Double Indemnity,” the 1944 Billy Wilder classic, with insurance at the heart of it!

R&I: What is your favorite drink?


Clean water. Check out for how to help people enjoy clean, safe water.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant at which you’ve eaten?

Liqun Roast Duck Restaurant in Beijing.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

China. See favorite restaurant above. This restaurant had been open for 100 years in that location. It didn’t exactly have an “A” rating, and it was probably not a place most risk managers would go to.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

Eating that duck at Liqun!

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

Dr. Seuss who, in response to a 1954 report in Life magazine, worked to reduce illiteracy among school children by making children’s books more interesting. His work continues to educate and entertain children worldwide.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

They’re not really sure!

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]