A bill that would change workers’ compensation laws in Iowa passed the Iowa house 55-88 Thursday, March 16, and is expected to be sent to the senate early next week. The legislation could lead to a decrease in workers’ compensation claims paid in this state.
House File 518 passed on a near party-line vote, with most Republicans voting for it and Democrats plus Republican Reps. Rob Taylor and Richard Anderson voting against (four Democrats and three Republicans abstained). If the senate and governor approve the bill, the changes will take effect in July.
If the bill passes, certain burdens will shift from employer to employee. It states, for example, that if an employee injured on the job tests positive for alcohol or any other drug that they do not have a prescription for after being injured, it “shall be presumed that the employee was intoxicated at the time of the injury and that intoxication was a substantial factor in causing the injury,” and the burden of proof is on the injured person to provide evidence to the contrary. The bill also reduces late fees when employers don’t pay injured employees on time.
The amended version of the bill left out a provision that would have cut off most benefits at age 67. An amendment softens requirements for injured employees to prove that work was the “predominant” cause of the injury, changing the word to “substantial.” The amended version somewhat scaled back major benefit cuts for shoulder injuries, common in meatpacking plants, but still presents a major reduction in benefits especially if an injury leads to permanent disability. The final version also added a provision for vocational training through community colleges to get injured workers back to work.
Business organizations, contractors, insurance companies, farm equipment manufacturers and meatpackers are among those who have lobbied in favor of the bill. Labor unions including AFSCME, AFL-CIO, police and firefighters and the Methodist church have lobbied against.