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A bill aimed at spurring access to state workers compensation coverage for employees and employers in the recreational maritime repair industry has been introduced in Congress.
Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama and chairman of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, on Friday introduced the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Clarification Act in response to concerns about regulatory uncertainty over a change to the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, which provides workers comp coverage to certain private-sector workers.
The law specified that individuals who built, dismantled or repaired recreational vessels measuring less than 65 feet could be covered under state workers comp laws. In 2009, Congress eliminated the size limitation to enable more employers to purchase state workers comp in lieu of more costly insurance under the federal law, according to a subcommittee press release issued on Friday.
However, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a rule in January 2012 that created a new definition of recreational vessels and attempted to exclude nonrecreational uses, which had the potential to create problems for manufacturers producing boats intended for the recreational market that would not know what the buyer’s ultimate use would be, according to the Chicago-based National Marine Manufacturers Association. The rule also clarified that workers who performed both qualifying maritime duties and excluded work were covered under the Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act program, even if the employees were injured while performing excluded work, according to the association.
“This bipartisan legislation corrects a bureaucratic mistake by the Obama administration that has created a cumbersome roadblock to workers’ compensation coverage for a number of maritime employees,” Mr. Byrne said in a statement. “Small businesses in the industry face complicated and confusing rules. Some have been forced to drop coverage altogether.”
Florida legislators continue to attempt to address major Florida Supreme Court decisions last year that have impacted the state's workers compensation system.