Workers' Compensation: Stepping Up Efforts against those Cheating the System
In every industry -- not just those thought of as high-hazard – there are certain risks at the workplace. And an injury that renders a worker unable to do his or her job presents a serious financial strain on Missouri families. Missouri law recognizes this, and requires that injured employees be adequately compensated. This is the role of workers’ compensation insurance—to provide that important safety net for Missouri’s workforce. Missouri law also requires every employer in the state with five or more employees to carry workers’ compensation coverage. And employers in the construction field must carry this coverage if they have one or more employees.
The vast majority of Missouri employers follow the workers’ compensation law: they pay their premiums and keep their coverage up to date. But there are exceptions. Employers who do not comply with the law leave their employees in the cold when an accident occurs. This is wrong and illegal, and the Labor Department’s Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) is taking action.
So far this year, the DWC referred 184 cases to the Attorney General’s Office, 80 more than last year at this time. These cases involved employers who either did not provide coverage or did not report the worker’s injury to the DWC. This reporting is required by law so that injured workers can be made aware of their rights. In 2009, 2,669 work-related injuries were never reported by an employer or insurer to the DWC; so far in 2010, this has happened 1,369 times.
In an attempt to stamp out this mistreatment of workers, the Labor Department has begun new efforts to make the workers’ compensation system more transparent and accountable. First, we created a new “Are You Covered?” online tool for our newly developed website at www.labor.mo.gov. This user-friendly tool allows users to access our workers’ compensation databases and check whether their employer carries coverage, and the effective dates of their policy. Visit http://www.labor.mo.gov/DWC/tool/wc_cov_ver.asp to access the tool.
Second, we modified our website to give the public an enhanced ability to report workers’ compensation fraud and noncompliance. The new feature on the website explains the various types of illegal conduct and allows users to report violators with the click of a mouse. We owe it to all workers in Missouri, as well as all of the good employers who play by the rules and cover their workers, to catch those who cheat the system. But we need your help! To report fraud, please call 800-592-6003, or visit http://www.labor.mo.gov/report_fraud.asp.