The Nebraska Unicameral is in session, and as usual, senators have introduced bills on a variety of topics: some good and some bad for our clients and potential clients.
NE LB 5: Workplace Violence
Senator Carol Blood introduced this bill in response to the increase in violent events in the workplace, such as shootings. Employees would not need to have a physical injury in order to get medical treatment for mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress. This is a long overdue small expansion of the law to recognize the reality of mental injuries!
NE LB 191: Workers’ Compensation First Reports of Injury
Senator Steve Halloran introduced this bill which would restrict the people allowed to request reports of injury for 60 days. This would mean that some injured workers may have difficulty finding information about their rights unless they immediately hire an attorney.
NE LB 203: Release of Employee Records
Senator Merve Riepe introduced a bill which would require an employee to provide a waiver of almost all previous medical records – while providing immunity for any hospital or provider for providing the wrong records. This bill if passed, would just provide a fishing expedition for employers and insurance companies to find reasons to deny benefits to workers.
NE LB 272: Reduce Compensation Waiting Period
Right now employees have to wait seven days after their injury to receive disability benefits, and this bill, introduced by Senator Tony Vargas, would reduce the waiting period to three days. Also, currently workers have to receive six weeks disability payments and can then make a claim for that first week of lost benefits. This bill would change that waiting period to only two weeks. When a worker has been injured, they need benefit payments as soon as possible, so this change would be fair and beneficial to employees.
NE LB 355: Transportation Network Company UM/UIM Requirements
If you are in an Uber or a Lyft and your driver causes a collision, the company is required to have $1 million in liability insurance. If a drunk driver hits your ride, however, and has little or no insurance, you may just have the driver’s uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) limits, which could be as low as $25,000. Senator Jane Raybould introduced this bill which requires companies like Lyft and Uber to carry at least $1 million UM/UIM insurance.
NE LB 380: Discrimination under the Nebraska Fair Employment Act
Senator Danielle Conrad introduced this bill which would not allow entities covered under the Nebraska Fair Employment Act to retaliate against an employee who reports a work-related injury. Because right now Workers’ Compensation is the exclusive remedy for injured workers, they may be discriminated against because of injuries they received at work. This very situation was the subject of a recent NE Supreme Court decision.
NE LB 426: Decrease Workers’ Compensation Judges
This bill, introduced by Senator Mike McDonnell, reduces the number of Worker’s Compensation judges from seven to six. Currently the number of workers’ compensation injuries, claims and trials is down, so decreasing judges could be a cost saving measure for the state. If cases increase, however, it could result in longer wait times for trials, and justice delayed.
NE LB 443: Compensation Limits for Total Disability
Senator Joni Albrecht introduced this stinker of a bill that would cut off permanent total disability benefits for employees at age 72 unless the employee was injured after age 67, in which case compensation would cease after 5 years from the start of total disability payments. This bill seems to prevent employees from “double dipping” – getting social security benefits and permanent total disability payments at the same time. But think about it: social security payments are calculated using earnings. If an employee’s earnings have stopped because of a severe work injury, that employee is going to be behind when the calculation is made. Workers only receive 2/3 of their average paychecks for permanent disability payments as it is. This bill would further impoverish many permanently disabled workers in their retirement years. Just a terrible heartless bill.
NE LB 464: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Resilience Training
Senator Tony Vargas introduced this bill that cleans up provisions of NE Statutes 48-101.01 and 71-7104 concerning first responders’ personal injuries due to traumatic stress disorder and other mental injuries.
Given the makeup of the current legislature and its pro-millionaire and pro-business cronies, this may be a rough year for new laws taking away the rights of ordinary citizens and injured workers. Please contact your Nebraska state senators and advocate for workers’ and injured people in Nebraska. Too often the only voices heard are those lobbying for business interests at the expense of ordinary citizens, so your voice is important. REMEMBER YOUR VOTE MATTERS!