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Missouri Legislature considering workers' compensation database

People in Missouri who have a work injury in their past may find that future employers will know quite a bit about that incident, if some state politicians get their way. The state Senate has passed a bill that would require the creation of an online database of workers’ compensation claims. The database would be viewable for employers to look into a job applicant’s history of workers’ comp claims.

Supporters say the database would help employers control workers’ compensation costs. But critics, such as Gov. Jay Nixon, believe the database would be an invasion of workers’ privacy. Nixon vetoed a similar bill in 2013.

According to the text of the bill, the database would be created by the Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation, and it would be accessible by business owners by July 1, 2015. The database would provide the date of any workers’ comp claim filed by a particular person, and whether the claim has been closed.

Employers doing a search on potential hires would only be able to do so after the applicant provides written consent. The bill says that employers would not be allowed to “compel or coerce” job applicants to provide the consent, or make doing so a condition of getting hired. It is not clear how this part of the bill would be enforced.

News sources, such as Insurance Journal, also do not explain how the database would hold down costs, as the bill’s supporters claim. It is possible that the idea is help employers avoid hiring people with a history of workers’ compensation claims, on the  principle that they would be more likely to get hurt or sick on the job again.

If this indeed is the idea behind the database, it is unfortunate that business interests and politicians are banding together to try to keep those with a history of work injuries from getting a fair chance of getting a job.

The bill has now moved on to the state House.

Source: Business Insurance, “Missouri Senate passes bill to create workers comp database,” Sheena Harrison, Feb. 13, 2014

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