Employment laws have a significant policy dimension in the United States of America since most of the Americans depend on work for their basic livelihood needs. These laws are designed to protect the well being of all citizens and not merely the individual involved in a particular case. Compensation laws are therefore structured to ensure that workers who are injured or disabled while on job are provided with fixed monetary rewards, eliminating the need for litigation or legal proceedings against the employer. The Laws are also a source of benefits to families of the employees who are killed because of worker related accidents or illness. Other laws shield employers and their colleagues through prior set limits as to the extent an injured worker can obtain compensation as well as co-workers' liability elimination in accidents.
There are a number of compensation laws as established by Status states. These laws include; Employment liability, Merchant marine laws, Longshore and Harbor laws, and Miners laws. An employment liability law requires that the railroads engaging in interstate commerce are liable to injuries of their employees if they have been negligent. A merchant marine law provides protection to seamen, who become injured as a result of their employer failing to take considerable duty of care because of negligent (The Jones Act).
Long shore and harbor laws are intended to provide workers' compensation to specified employees of private maritime employers. Miner's law also known as the Black-lung compensation law is aimed at ensuring that miners are favorably compensated for suffering from the black lung diseases. In a case where a liable mine operator is unable or unknown to the state, it is required that a compensation fund be established to pay for the disability of the miners.
There is an overall compensation law established by the federal statutes that guides the workers' compensation for non-military, federal employees. Awards in this law are limited only to disability or death sustained while on performance of duties which have been assigned and not willfully caused by the employees. This law requires that a disabled employee be given medical benefits such as treatment and certain percentage of the monthly salary. The disabled worker may also be required by the law to undergo job retraining, so as to learn the essential techniques which the employee might have learnt during the previous job orientation. This repetitive acquaintance with the job's activities and operations, is meant to empower the disabled employee, the result of this being self re-invention. This will help the injured employee, to avoid future injuries likely to cause permanent damage (Raymond 85).
Compensation law requires that incase where an employee dies while executing employment duties, his or her full employment benefits be awarded to the surviving dependants. These benefits will be in monetary terms. Long before the establishment of legal employment laws specifically in the era of industrial management, corporations were the dominant actors and players in employment. They set their own laws based on prerogative and discretion system. There were no bargaining and good worker protective policies. In this era, the terms and conditions were set by the employer. Legal regimes were based on the liberty contracts and constitutional safeguards of property against state intervention. The employees were not adequately compensated (Purpura 75).
The era of industrial management was marked by massive and extensive exploitation of employees by the employers. According to Abelda et al 25-32, there were unequal wage scales which were discriminative in nature. Most employees in the United States, at this time, were forced to either accept the terms and conditions of the jobs available, (or stay without any employment), since they could not find any other form of job placement that offered better remuneration and adequate compensation. The available job opportunities did provide good and favorable working environment.
The extreme exploitation by the employers led to untold pain and suffering that raised a lot of concerns by the employees and the market forces. This contributed to the evolvement of collective bargaining era where the main players were now the labor unions formed to fight for workers rights and safety. This era was based on labor market institutions and practices. The terms and conditions for employment were set by the labor unions. There were extensive negotiation agreements, labor management and stability coupled by macroeconomic policies and private dispute resolution. These sparked on the wave and change in the employment and compensation laws.
The final change came after all workers became fully aware of their employment rights. This was the era of individual employment rights that is still place up to date. The main player became the government took the full charge of protecting its employees and citizens at large. The employment was and is based on the protective employment legislation. In this era the statutes and the common law doctrines are protective mechanisms where employee's rights are created. Here litigation is the only means of solving conflicts occurring in the employment environments. This is what led to extensive debates in employment where various reforms were taken, among them being the creation of employment Acts to oversee and enforce the compensation of workers by their employers (Mishel 100).
There are conditions to be met for one to qualify for a compensation program. These requirements are; the employer must be covered by workers' compensation, the claimant must be an employee, injury or the illness must be work related and there must be a medical prove.
Requirement one: Employer must be covered by workers' compensation. The employer has a responsibility to ensure that all the workers are compensated for injuries and illness resulting from work execution. Some states require employers to provide coverage based on the number of employees, the nature and kind of business undertaking and the kind of work that employees are performing. Many state employers have purchased workers' compensation insurance even when they are not required by the law. This allows the employer to ensure that all workers are covered from work related injuries and illness thus can't file a lawsuit against the employer.
Requirement Two: One must be an employee. Not all workers are employees when it comes to workers compensation programs. For instance, volunteers and independent contractors do are not part of compensational programs. This therefore means that only workers who are internally employed by an employer can qualify to this program.
Requirement Three: Injuries and illness must be work related. For one to qualify for workers' compensation, the occurring injuries and illness should be directly linked to work execution (Purpura 120). There are some cases which could make an employee not to qualify for this benefit. For example if the employee comes to work when he is drunk and causes an accident, then in the event that he sustains injuries, he cannot be awarded workers' compensation benefits. This there means that workers are supposed to ensure that no intentional injury is caused by them that is likely to make them fail to be awarded benefits.
Fourth requirement: There must be a medical prove. One cannot claim to have been injured just by a mere word of mouth. Thus workers seeking compensation must show creditable evidence of injury good enough to qualify for such benefits. The evidence must have been subjected to various diagnoses and after which are endorsed by a certified medical expert.
Having a workers' compensation programs offers a number of benefits to the employee. These are; Covered medical expenses, Disability pays, Vocational rehabilitation and punitive measures on the employer. Also there are Death and dependency benefits.
Medical expenses will include cost for hospitals, doctors' service and medical treatment. An injured employee may not be able to cater for his or her medical expenses due to high costs that may be involved. Consequently some injuries may require medicines which are quite expensive to acquire by the injured employee. Thus by having a workers' compensation program then injured employees will be adequately catered for, minimizing the cases of 'premature deaths' (Kraus, 2000, pp46). Some medical programs allow injured worker to choose a medical cover of his or her own choice. Consequently some states require employees to seek medical attention from a medical provider chosen by the employer or the employers' insurance company.
Disability pays are either temporary or permanent. Temporary pay is only awarded to the worker while he or she is regaining the former original status. Permanent pays will be awarded to an employee who suffers permanent damage that can never allow him or her to work again.
Vocational Rehabilitation will be another form of workers' compensation scheme where an injured worker is re-trained so that he or she can resume working again (Mishel & Jared 45). This program might require the employ to undergo physical therapy and other forms of rehabilitation which unless he or she is a member of workers' compensation scheme will not be awarded.
When an employee holds compensation scheme and is killed while discharging employment duties, then his dependants will be awarded all the death benefits. These benefits will include all the retirement benefits and the compensation resulting from the death of employee. Because sometimes the employee could be the only breadwinner of the family, and his absence is likely to cause financial upheavals in the family, then by having a compensation program, the dependants can still meet their basic needs and other wants necessary for their survival.
Since, according to the Employment Act, an employer holds a responsibility of ensuring the well-being of the employees without fault, the state may decide to punish the employer by either issuing temporary injunctions or stopping completely its operation. Temporary injunction would b imposed on the employer help ensure that discriminative and harmful practices are restricted and do not occur in the future. Similarly this action may be taken to enable the employer redesign the scope of business coverage, the number of employees to be employed within a given timeframe and objectives of the business clearly stating a detailed compensation programmes to all employees. Permanent injunction will be aimed stopping work activities which pose to be a threat to the citizens of the state (Albelda et al 50).
The current economic situation requires that employers set clearly defined objectives regarding to the compensation scheme of their employees. This has been enabled by the concerted efforts of; non-governmental bodies, trade unions and consumer associations, which require that any organization show corporate social responsibility, by ensuring that the welfares of all employers are also given heavy priorities as would be profit maximization objective. Thus all employees are therefore encouraged to belong in workers' compensation schemes so that they are equally compensated in the event of injury, illness disability or job losses.
There are current flaws in the workers' compensation. These flaws are found in the medical care, Compensation complaints filing, Limited information and Non uniform compensational laws.
The Medical care was designed to cater for the lives of workers who are injured while on duty. However it has been noted that the injured workers are forced to seek low standard medication which cannot bring about total treatment. This practice is only aimed at promoting the continuity of insurance companies enabling them to make exorbitant profits at the expense of injured workers (Purpura 90). Doctors are assigned duties of ensuring that the injured workers are protected by being given proper attention. However this has become ineffective and inefficient, because of the lack of strict rules and guidelines regarding doctors' conduct while on duties. If doctors are to be forced to become more competent and effective in their daily affairs, then cases of 'premature deaths' of injured employees will not witnessed (Kraus, 2000, pp 46). This flaw in the medical schemes, between the employers and insurance companies, and the doctors' conduct, has even resulted into death of injured employees.
There is no regular review of the compensational schemes and medical cover policies making it remain flawed. Once an employee is hired, and given a medical cover as outlined in the company's compensational procedures, then he or she cannot make any form advocacy to review the schemes. Most economic situations such as inflation, usually affect directly the lives of citizens who, in this case, are the employees of various companies. Thus, regular review of the compensational schemes and medical covers should be seasonally carried out to ensure that salaries and wages of employees are increased during times of inflation, without segregation and prejudice (Mishel & Jared, 2003, pp, 90).
Another flaw has been found the processing of complaints. An injured worker filing a compensation complaint against an employer will have to wait for a number of months for the complaint to be processed. There exist unclear complain filling procedures which some employees have not been oriented to. This is a major weakness which should be looked into with heartfelt deep concerns.
There is a big flaw in the workers' compensation schemes being developed by the employers. Most employers do not provide adequate information regarding the scope of their business ventures and the number of employees they have. Most of these, involve secret arrangement between the employer and the insurance company covering the employees. This lack of enough information caused by intentional withholding of relevant facts, are what the federal state should look into and severe punitive measures taken against those employers with such practices. The federal state also ought to create powerful departments that can closely monitor the activities and affairs of various companies. This can be done by ensuring that all companies submit compulsory reports relating to employees compensation for a given period of time. The report should be verified and audited by certified independent auditor. If this is looked into, then employees will be favorably and adequately remunerated improving their 'economic status' (Mishel & Jared, 2003, pp96).
There also exists non-uniformity in the compensational laws such every state is allowed to pass its own laws. This has resulted into a lot of pain and suffering being caused to employees as a result of employers' activity. Some states have laws which protect employers from compensating employees even they suffer from injuries. Thus it could be of great importance if the federal government can develop a uniform law to govern the conduct of employers in all the states of US.
These and other laws are supposed to be changed or revised so that ordinary employees are protected from discrimination and exploitation by the employers (Albelda et al2000, pp74).
There exist wide differences in the compensation laws among different states but all united towards ensuring the well-being of citizens who are employed by companies. There those states which have enacted laws protecting both parties while others only protect one party. The major case that has helped revolutionize the current laws in the United States are the Admiralty and Maritime Laws such as the case of Butler V Boston & S. S. S. Co., 130 US,527,557(1889) and Civil Rights laws having cases such as United Steelworks V Weber (1979) that involved fair employment without discrimination. There are many cases which have promoted recognition of Workers' compensation laws which have been enacted and there are future expectations of improvement in such laws.