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Posted in In the News on July 25, 2017   |  by Gary Burger

Work Comp Legal Changes

Governor Greitens signed SB 66 (about which I have previously written) that was passed by the Missouri legislature. Here are the key changes workers need to understand:

Death Benefits for the Survivors of First Responders. Changes Section 287.243 RSMo. These changes make some very substantial additions and alterations to this Section. If you are a survivor of a First Responder, you must file claims within one year of the death of the first responder.

Retaliation Legal Claims. Changes Section 287.780 RSMo. In general, if an employer retaliates against an employee for filing or attempting to file a worker’s compensation claim, the worker may have a legal claim against the employer. The legal standard to win a case has now been changed. Previously, an employee merely had to show that the employee’s filing of a worker’s compensation claim was a contributing factor in the employer’s decision to retaliate against or fire the employee.

The new standard requires a work comp claim to be the motivating factor for termination. This is defined as “the employee’s exercise of his or her rights under this chapter actually played a role in the discharge or discrimination and had a determinative influence.” This new standard will make it harder for employees to prove their cases. Jury instructions in MAI section 38 will be changed accordingly.

Drug and Alcohol Testing. Changes Section 287.120.6 RSMo. Now, employers are required to conduct drug and alcohol tests of employees within 24 hours of the workplace injury, and provide employees with the drug test results within 14 days of the employer having received the results.

What’s more, the employee must be given the opportunity to do a second test on the original sample. If the test comes back positive for a non-prescribed controlled drug or its metabolites forces the employee to prove that the workplace injury did not occur as a result of the drug use.

Hardship Hearings. Changes Section 287.203 RSMo. When employers fail to provide the benefits to which an injured worker is entitled, the worker’s only recourse is to file for Hardship Hearing. The forces a mediation and trial before an administrative law judge to provide benefits owed. This can be monetary benefits or medical treatment. The new law is actually positive for employees. It forces the Court to hear Hardship Hearings within 30 days of the request.

Employee Disability Rating. Changes Section 287.390 RSMo. This change requires the employee to obtain an expert opinion relating to their permanent disability within 12 months of the employer’s offer of settlement based on their own expert rating.

Death Benefits for Step Children. Changes Section 287.240 RSMo. This law relates to death benefits available to the children of workers killed on the job. These changes amend the definition of dependent children to include “any stepchild claimable by the deceased on his or her federal income tax return at the time of the injury…” These changes should make it easier for step children to collect death benefits.