2024 Legislative Update

Sometimes it’s a good thing when the Legislature adjourns without doing anything significant to our workers compensation laws. That was the case this year. Nothing major affecting workers compensation benefits made it through the legislature this year, and by and large, that is good.

Last year, the Legislature passed a “good faith” bill (HB 1521) regarding self-insurers and TPA’s, or third-party administrators. TPAs are entities like Sedgwick, Eberle Vivian and the like. Unfortunately, this bill only applied to public employees. A bill introduced this year would have expanded these protections to all workers, but it did not get out of committee.

A very damaging bill that did NOT pass was ESSB 5368, the “Stay-at-work” bill. Injured workers generally benefit from getting back to meaningful work as soon as possible, but this bill would have allowed employers to offer that light duty with another unrelated employer.

There are significant privacy concerns with this type of a program. We also don’t want to see any type of privatization of our state fund workers compensation system in Washington State. So-called “three way” workers comp law almost always benefit the employer community at the cost of benefits and health care for injured workers. We also continue to see plenty of abuse of the “light duty” jobs offered by employers as it is, so we strongly opposed this bill.

A couple of additional bills of interest passed the legislature this year. The first was a bill to enact safe and fair working conditions for workers in adult entertainment establishments, and the second was a bill to provide workers compensation death benefits for transportation network company drivers (like Uber and Lyft) if the driver is logged onto the TNC’s digital network as available for work at the time of their death.

Also, a bill passed that reduces the time (from 14 days to 7 days) that a temporary total disability must continue to receive workers compensation time loss benefits for the first three days following the injury.

There were a few other bills that did not, unfortunately, pass. One was a bill to enforce a worker’s right to their personnel records. The business community vigorously opposed this bill, even though access to personnel files is already the law in this state.

It was a busy session, but as always, feel free to call if you have any questions about how any of our workers compensation laws might apply to your case.

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