Insult to injury: Workers’ compensation isn’t working in New York

Jun 7, 2019

While the city contemplates demanding employers provide paid vacation days and other new guarantees for workers toward the bottom of the pay and power scale, a basic piece of the safety net is frayed: the workers’ compensation system meant to support people who get hurt on the job, and to help their families get by when a breadwinner is killed.

Workers’ comp is a private system with benefits set by the state. Employers buy the insurance, which then pays out when an employee sustains an injury that results in lost wages.

A new report from the Center for New York City Affairs lays out some grim vitals. Annually in New York State, 115,000 people get hurt and are forced to take time off work as a result. While that figure is way down over the decades, fatal injuries just hit their highest level in 20 years, driven by a spike in construction deaths.

Yet the minimum weekly payout here, a state with a high cost of living, is just $150, less than half its level in five neighboring states. And in a best-case scenario, because of the Empire State’s particular formulas, workers pocket a sum that adds up to two-thirds of the wages they lost.


Bureaucratic hurdles make it complicated and expensive for claimants, plenty of whom are immigrants, to collect the money that is rightfully theirs.

Meantime, insurance industry profits are healthier than a hog, up 92% between 2014 and 2017, even as payouts total just 55% of premiums.

Workers’ compensation benefits should be solid, not lavish, to give individuals every incentive to get back on the job, and there must be strong controls to root out fraudsters. But something is woefully out of whack here. Fix it.

Read the full article here.


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