Over the past few years, workers' compensation benefits have been undergoing significant changes brought on by technological advancements, societal shifts and the constantly changing economic and socio-cultural landscapes of the workforce. As we head into 2024, a variety of new laws have been put in place to reshape various aspects of workers' compensation—influencing the rights and protections afforded to employees in the face of work-related injuries or illnesses.
These legislative changes include a range of considerations, from addressing the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to offering greater support for mental health issues. Below are just a few examples of new legislation made by various states to expand and enhance workers’ rights and the compensation they receive.
Legislation to Raise Workers’ Compensation Minimum Benefit: Effective Jan. 1, 2024, New York State has increased the minimum weekly benefit rate for workers’ compensation benefits to $275 from $150. If an injured worker’s regular wages are less than the minimum weekly benefit ($275), they will receive their full, regular wages.
The new legislation, signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul, also raises the minimum weekly workers’ compensation benefit to $325 starting Jan. 1, 2025.
Legislation to Strengthen Workers’ Rights: Legislation (S. 2518/A. 836) prohibits employers from requesting or requiring usernames, login information and passwords of personal accounts as a condition of hiring, as a condition of employment or for use in a disciplinary action.
See also: How to Enhance Workers' Comp Outcomes
Oregon Senate Bill 907 (Discrimination/Retaliation/Workplace Safety): Effective Jan. 1, 2024, this law bars employers from retaliating or discriminating against employees who refuse to do work that would expose them to serious injury or death arising from a hazardous condition, provided the employee acted “in good faith and with no reasonable alternative.”
Oregon House Bill 3307 (Discrimination & Harassment). Effective Jan. 1, 2024, this law extends civil rights, discrimination and harassment workplace protections to participants in registered apprenticeship programs and certain private-sector on-the-job training programs.
Paid Leave for All Workers Act: Effective Jan. 1, 2024, covered employers under the Paid Leave for All Workers Act (PLAWA) must provide employees with up to 40 hours of paid leave during a 12-month period. The law applies to all private-sector employers, regardless of size, but exempts seasonal workers, as well as college students working temporary jobs for their universities.
HB 3733: Effective Jan. 1, 2024, HB 3733 amends the Illinois Minimum Wage Law, Illinois Equal Pay Act, Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, Illinois Child Labor Law and Illinois Day and Temporary Labor Services Act by requiring employers with employees who do not regularly report to a physical workplace to distribute the mandatory notices under these laws by either email or posting the materials on the employer’s web or intranet site.
Expansion of PTSD Benefits Under Workers’ Compensation Act: Effective Jan. 1, 2024, Connecticut significantly expanded the circumstances under which employees can receive workers’ compensation benefits for post-traumatic stress injuries suffered while working. The Workers’ Compensation Act now specifically defines the following traumatic events as qualifying events triggering eligibility for benefits for all employees who:
- See the death of an individual or an accident involving their death
- Witness someone’s injury who dies prior to hospital admission as a result of that injury
- Attend to an injured person who dies before hospital admission
- Witness an injury that results in permanent disfigurement of the victim
- Witness the death of a minor
Under previous legislation, these benefits were available only to firefighters, police officers, parole officers and corrections officers. The new legislation drastically expands the definition of an “employee” to allow benefits to all employees.
See also: Case Study on Using AI in Workers' Comp
Workers’ Compensation Maximum Rate for 2024 Announced: Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor and Industry determined that the maximum compensation payable under the Workers Compensation Act shall be $1,325 per week for injuries and illness occurring on and after Jan. 1, 2024. For purposes of calculating the updated payments for medical treatment rendered on and after the Jan. 1 of this year, the percentage increase in the statewide average weekly wage is 4.0%.
SB 740 – Hazardous Materials Management, Stationary Sources and Skilled and Trained Workforce (Effective Jan. 1, 2024). When contracting for the performance of construction, alteration, demolition, installation, repair or maintenance work at a stationary source that is engaged in petroleum-related activities, an owner or operator of the stationary source must require that its contractors and subcontractors use a skilled and trained workforce to perform all onsite work.
AB 521 – Toilet Facilities at Construction Jobsites (Effective Jan. 1, 2024). This law requires the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) to draft a rulemaking proposal to consider revising a regulation on construction jobsite toilet facilities to require at least one single-user toilet facility on all construction jobsites designated for employees who self-identify as female or nonbinary.
SB 700 – Cannabis Use (Effective Jan. 1, 2024).Existing law makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a candidate or employee because of the person’s use of cannabis off the job and away from the workplace unless an exception applied, such as testing for only psychoactive cannabis metabolites (as opposed to non-psychoactive), federal law permitting testing for controlled substances and jobs requiring federal government background investigation or security clearance.
Staying informed about changes to workers' compensation laws is important for both employers and employees. With many new regulations put in place in 2024, injured, sick, discriminated-against and harassed workers will find themselves better protected with greater rights and access to higher-quality care. Understanding the protections that these legislative changes bring will make it easier for workers to receive the benefits they are entitled to.