Last Thursday, the Massachusetts Senate overwhelmingly cleared a bill that would expand the workers’ compensation benefits for disfigurement.
The bill will allow workers’ compensation policies for disfigurement to cover an injury to any area of the body rather than just the person’s neck, face or hands. Injured workers would also be compensated more. Currently there is a $15,000 cap on disfigurement injuries but the bill would raise that to cover 22.5 percent of the average weekly salary. Colorado allows benefits up to $4,000 for a disfigurement injury that would be visible in a swimsuit; New York has a $20,000 cap on injuries to the face, neck or head. Oklahoma allows for a maximum of $50,000 for such injuries, while Pennsylvania awards sixty-six and two-thirds of average weekly wages for injuries to the head, neck or face.
Some legislators are worried that passing the disfigurement bill would make it more difficult to do business in the state or drive business away from the state which already has a reputation for being “one of the more expensive places to do business” in the country, according to Senator Vinny deMacedo.
A proponent of the bill, Senator Sal DiDomenico said that it is unfair to workers to “pick and choose” if their disfigurement is worth compensation and that there is still pain and suffering involved with any kind of disfigurement injury. He estimated that the bill would not cost businesses more than half a million dollars and that the change is overdue since the rate of compensation had not been changed in 24 years.
In addition to the disfigurement bill, legislators also passed a bill that would allow the Attorney General to file a civil suit for injunctive relief in an effort to better enforce wage and hour violations. Before this bill was introduced only workers could file such an action, but the office of the Attorney General stated that they hope the power and influence of an injunction on behalf of a Superior Court may help them stop wage violations, or at least encourage employers to become compliant sooner than they would have.