LANSING – State Representative David Rutledge (Ypsilanti) today spoke out against a proposal that would significantly weaken workers’ compensation protections under current state law. The legislation, House Bill 5002, allows employers new controls over injured workers’ health care options, and reduces the support available to injured or disabled workers.

“Our state’s workers’ compensation laws have been around for 100 years, and have been praised as a model for other states to ensure that Michigan workers are protected if they are injured on the job,” Rutledge said. “This legislation will make it harder for workers hurt on the job to put food on the table.”

Independent studies have praised current state workers’ comp laws as a “competitive asset” for Michigan. The national, independent Workers Compensation Research Institute reports that Michigan’s total per-claim costs are 35 percent lower than the median of 16 states studied.

Current law includes protections for both workers and employers from costly litigation, but critics throughout the state believe that HB 5002 could significantly increase the number of workers’ compensation court cases. The bill would eliminate many requirements for new magistrates who oversee worker’s comp cases, making magistrates political appointees, instead of qualified experts on the complicated field of workers’ compensation law. The legislation would also allow employers control over which doctor injured workers can visit for 45 days following an injury. Current law allows employers this control for only 10 days.

The legislation passed the House this afternoon by a 59-49 vote, and will next be submitted to the Senate for consideration.

“The Michigan workers’ compensation system has been set up to protect employers, workers, and their families,” Rutledge said, “and this legislation is nothing more than an attempt to help big business dodge any responsibility to injured or disabled workers.”