Suffering a workplace accident can be an extremely shocking, scary and impactful thing for a worker to experience. One minute, a worker is doing their job as normal, and the next they find themselves with a serious injury, such as a brain injury, which could lead to big medical expenses and the potential of not being able to work for a time. Facing such financial impacts, one thing that can be of incredible importance for a worker who has been injured in a workplace accident is to receive workers' compensation benefits when they are entitled to them.
Workers sometimes find their request to their employer for workers' compensation benefits in relation to a workplace injury denied. When this occurs, an employee may be able to contest the denial. Under an administrative change that Oklahoma made earlier this year, the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Commission is now the body which administers the process of handling claims of wrongful denial of workers' compensation benefits made by workers. Given this important role, one would hope that the commission would act properly in all of its operations.
Unfortunately, some allegations have arisen that this new commission may have acted improperly in regards to certain matters.
One of the commission's three commissioners has leveled claims that:
- She has been shut out of certain commission processes.
- The minutes of the commission incorrectly attributed certain actions to the commission when they were actually actions taken solely by the commission's executive director or chairman.
- She asked that a meeting with a potential vendor regarding a bidding process be an open meeting, but her request was not met and the meeting was ultimately a closed one (there is some dispute regarding whether this meeting was required to be an open one).
In the wake of these allegations, an investigation into how the commission conducts its business and whether it committed any Open Meeting Act violations has been started by the district attorney's office in Oklahoma County.
While the allegations that have been leveled aren't directly related to workers' compensation claims, they are still alarming ones to hear from a workers' rights perspective, given the major role the commission plays in the workers' compensation process. One would certainly hope that the commission would always be on the up-and-up in the conducting of its business. One wonders what the investigation of the commission will find.
Sources: The Oklahoman, "Oklahoma County district attorney initiates Workers' Compensation Commission investigation," Randy Ellis, July 23, 2014
Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Commission, "About the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Commission," Accessed Aug. 5, 2014