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Changes may be ahead for workers' compensation

Pennsylvania workers may be interested to learn that hosts of a monthly webinar series report that there could be policy changes ahead that affect workers' compensation. A 2016 report by the Department of Labor called for state workers' compensation programs to adhere to minimum standards, but such reform may be on hold with the Trump administration. Other changes to the workers' compensation system might occur because of the repeal or replacement of the Affordable Care Act.

A number of changes in focus that occurred during the Obama administration may also shift. For example, there was a greater focus on enforcement within the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and for the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Cultural shifts may also account for some changes. Legalization of marijuana in a growing number of states means that it may be necessary to identify what is impairment when under the influence of marijuana. Employers are increasingly providing employer assistance programs and becoming more aware of mental health issues. They account for a significant number of short-term disability absences. While Pennsylvania recognizes that mental injuries may occur without a physical cause, many other states do not, and this may change as well.

Since it appears there may be some volatility around workers' compensation laws, employees who are injured on the job may want to speak to an attorney. Employers may not fully understand employee rights or any changes, and an attorney might be able to assist an injured individual with paperwork. An attorney might also be helpful in advising workers as to how they should document mental difficulties or injuries such as repetitive strain-related ones that may not be tied to a single incident or accident.

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