Risk Insider: Dan Holden

Oklahoma’s Pretzel Logic

By: | March 2, 2016

Dan Holden is a Risk Operations Manager at BBSI in Portland, Oregon where he helps employers avoid on-the-job injuries by instilling a zero loss culture. His recent background includes serving as the Risk & Insurance Manager for Daimler Trucks North America. He also worked as Vice President and Senior Workers’ Compensation Consultant for Marsh USA. Holden earned his B.A. in Journalism from Oregon State University and has written for several insurance and risk management publications. He holds an Associate in Claims designation. Dan can be reached at [email protected]

As a veteran of the workers’ compensation claims trenches, I saw first-hand how the expensive nature of the system drove employers out of business. Not only was it sad to see businesses go belly-up, it was equally sad for the workers who were suddenly unemployed.




It was definitely a case of lose-lose.

One way to combat the high costs of workers’ compensation was to opt-out of the traditionally expensive system in states that allowed it. By opting out, employers were forced to be more engaged in the administration of their program and focus more on the outcomes.

The result was a less expensive system; providing quality benefits to the injured workers; thus improving the overall outcome.

Oklahoma was one of the states that seemed to have found the right mix. So I was quite dismayed to learn of the recent decision by the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC).

The case, Vasquez v. Dillard’s Inc., involved a worker for Dillard’s who was denied benefits after a work injury that was determined to be an aggravation of a pre-existing injury.

Oklahoma was one of the states that seemed to have found the right mix. So I was quite dismayed to learn of the recent decision by the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC).

The WCC declared the opt-out portion of the workers’ compensation system unconstitutional because they felt it created a dual system whereupon the injured worker is treated differently.

The most intriguing facet is how the WCC abandoned their traditional administrative role for that of a judiciary in deciding what law is, and is not, constitutional.

That, I suppose, is another story.

However, they completely ignored the already approved opt-out option and remanded the case back to the Administrative Law Judge within the traditional workers’ compensation system.

Not only am I concerned about that sort of pretzel logic, but I also see it as another attack on exclusive remedy.

Right now my company doesn’t do business in any of the opt-out states. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t consider it if that option presented itself down the road.




But that is probably on hold as any state considering moving forward with the opt-out system has now been stopped dead in their tracks. Best to sit tight for now.

As for whether the Oklahoma ruling will change what I do in regards to workers’ compensation remains to be seen. As I’m sure many employers will do now, I’ll wait on the sidelines and see how this plays out.

This is basically what I was doing before the Oklahoma ruling … observing from afar to see if the opt-out system (if/when it came to my states) was not only cost-effective but also fair to the workers.

To be honest, I would never consider an alternate workers’ compensation system unless I was convinced it offered our injured workers the same, or better, benefits as the traditional system. I would also need to be convinced that it produced better outcomes.

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