Worker Protection Measure Passes Senate

by | Oct 23, 2015

BOSTON- Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) announced that on Thursday the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation that provide workers with greater wage and labor protections by ensuring compensation for injuries resulting on the job.

“The legislation passed by the Senate strikes a balance between providing enhanced protections for workers without being overly burdensome to employers in our Commonwealth,” said Sen. Moore. “The Senate took action to ensure that employees are afforded opportunities to seek recourse against harmful employment conditions or tactics.”

Under current Massachusetts Law, workers who suffer permanent bodily harm while on the job are compensated up to $15,000, but only if such disfigurement is on the face, neck or hands. Workers who are scarred on their arms, legs or torso, for instance, do not fall under the law even though they often suffer both physically and emotionally. Workers who have permanent scarring on other extremities often suffer from skin that has healed awkwardly, making certain movements uncomfortable at best and in many cases unbearable. This stipulation in the current law fails to take into account that there are many serious injuries that result in permanent disfigurement on less visible parts of the body that may impact a worker’s ability to obtain and retain employment, and that these workers should be compensated accordingly.

The legislation passed by the Senate eliminates the requirements that a scar be exclusively on a worker’s face, neck and hands. In addition, the bill changes the compensation from $15,000 to 22.5 times the weekly average wage to keep in step with inflation and the rising cost of living. While the $15,000 cap may have seemed equitable at the time the law was put in place, inflation and the rising cost of health care have made a set dollar amount an inefficient way of judging equitable compensation. By creating an equation based on salary, the law will not need to be updated regularly and will be more objective and equitable for workers who are injured on the job.

Citing the possible negative impact on small businesses in Massachusetts, Senator Moore voted against a separate bill which would provide the Attorney General’s Office with the authority to enforce wage and hour violations directly in court. The bill was ultimately passed by the Senate after a 27-11 roll call vote.

The legislation will now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.