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Employee Challenges Florida's Workers' Compensation System

Dave Langevin - Friday, April 08, 2016

A Supreme Court case in Florida could have large implications for employers and injured workers in the state. The case involves a nurse, Daniel Stahl, who injured his back while on the job. Realistically, however, the real heart of the case is a 2003 Florida law that restricted benefits for injured workers. Stahl is arguing, in effect, that Florida’s workers’ compensation laws upset the delicate compromise which holds most workers’ compensation systems together.

Worker’s compensation represents a compromise between the rights of employees and the rights of employers when an employee is hurt at work. The system relies on two basic principles to make this work. The first principle is that employers must pay compensation for all injuries that an employee sustains while at work. This is true even if the employee was at fault for the injury. The second principle is that an employer’s liability is limited and an employee cannot sue their employer in the traditional sense. The compromise allows workers to get paid when they miss work with injury while at the same time stopping one injury from putting a company out of business.

Stahl claims that the Florida legislature took away the first principle with their 2003 changes to the Florida Workers’ Compensation system. He states that the law “decimated and eviscerated” benefits while still preventing employees from filing suit. The employers defending the law state that it prevented worker’s compensation insurance dues from spiraling out of control. The Florida heard arguments last Wednesday and will issue opinions in the following months.