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Landmark Okla. workers compensation reform law faces challenge

Landmark Okla. workers compensation reform law faces challenge

An Oklahoma firefighters union and two state lawmakers filed a lawsuit Wednesday asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to declare a workers compensation reform law adopted in May unconstitutional.

Oklahoma's workers comp reform law attracted nationwide attention for allowing employers to adopt an employee injury benefit plan as an alternative to mandated benefits typically provided through the state's workers comp system.

The law also creates several other changes to Oklahoma's worker comp system such as establishing an administrative dispute resolution process to replace a court-based adjudication system.

The lawsuit was filed by the Professional Fire Fighters of Oklahoma, state Sen. Harry E. Coates, R-Seminole, and state Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman.

It asks the Supreme Court of Oklahoma for declaratory relief, claiming some of the changes the law enacted violate due process because they are “overly broad,” deny compensation for employees and eliminate workers' access to court remedies.

Supporters of the reform law have expected a challenge. The State Chamber of Oklahoma, for instance, blamed trial lawyers for the lawsuit.

“It is not surprising that trial lawyers would attempt to overturn the will of the people and their elected representatives in order to maintain the status quo of Oklahoma's broken workers compensation system,” the Oklahoma City-based chamber said in a statement. “We firmly believe the workers compensation reforms passed by the Legislature this year are constitutional.”