On December 16, 2013, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled 7 to 1 that Senate Bill 1062, which was signed by Governor Mary Fallin on May 6, 2013, "is not unconstitutional as a multiple subject bill." The high court in the case, Coates et al vs. Fallin, No O – 112167, held that all sections of the new law are inter-related and refer to the single subject of workers' compensation or the way employees may ensure protection against work-related injuries.
The court did not address other challenges raised by the plaintiffs leaving the door open for future challenges of the various parts of the law stating that they were without jurisdiction to rule further regarding the act "until such time as a case or controversy or a justiciable issue is presented to the Court."
This court decision now clears the path for implementation of Senate Bill 1062 effective February 1, 2014.
Employers in Oklahoma will now have a choice between two systems to supply benefits to injured employees injured on the job:
- The "Administrative Workers' Compensation Act" (AWCA) replaces the current Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court and will be overseen by a three-member Workers' Compensation Commission.
- The "Oklahoma Employee Injury Benefit Act" (OEIBA), also referred to as the Oklahoma Alternative Benefit Option, allows an employer to voluntarily elect to be exempt from the AWCA.
Oklahoma is now the only state, other than Texas, to allow employers the ability to offer an alternate coverage plan or the statutory workers' compensation system. Unlike Texas, both choices in Oklahoma provide employers the protection of exclusive remedy, except in cases of intentional torts or if the employer fails to provide benefits to workers.
Sedgwick is committed to keeping employers updated on the Oklahoma changes. Do you have questions about how they will impact you? Send them to us in the comments section below.
Eddy Canavan, VP, Workers’ Compensation & Compliance