Missouri Governor Signs Bill Aimed at Reducing Workplace Injury Costs into Law

Throughout his campaign, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens promised to lead efforts to create a more business-friendly environment in Missouri. With only a short time remaining in the 2017 legislative session, the Missouri legislature approved Senate Bill 66, a measure focused at reforming Missouri’s worker’s compensation system.  On July 5, 2017, Governor Greitens made good on his promises and signed Senate Bill 66 into law. The bill contains several reforms that will help businesses better control the costs associated with workplace injuries.

First, the law provides a statutory definition for “maximum medical improvement.”  Previously, Missouri court decisions had left employers liable for temporary disability benefits as long as an employee continued to receive some sort of ongoing treatment. Under the new law, employees will only be entitled to temporary disability benefits until they have achieved “maximum medical improvement,” or “the point at which the injured employee’s medical condition has stabilized and can no longer reasonably improve with additional medical care.”  The new law also provides that claimants have 12 months after receiving the employer’s permanent disability rating to acquire their own rating.  Absent extenuating circumstances, if after 12 months the claimant has not acquired a second rating, any settlement shall be based on the employer’s permanent partial disability rating.

Second, the new law provides that any positive test for an illegal drug after an injury shall give rise to a rebuttable presumption that the injury was sustained in conjunction with using that drug, provided that the employer conforms with appropriate testing measures.  If the employee is unable to rebut that presumption, the benefits owed to the employee will be reduced by 50 percent. Employees forfeit all benefits if the use of illegal drugs was the proximate cause of the injury.

Finally, the new law provides that an employee bringing a lawsuit alleging that they were subject to discrimination for filing a worker’s compensation claim must establish that the exercising of their rights was the “motivating factor” for the alleged discrimination.  Previously, employees only had to show that their worker’s compensation claim was a “contributing factor” in the alleged discrimination. This change brings Missouri state law in line with federal law and will likely increase the number of cases that employers can expect to see resolved through motion practice instead of trial.

These changes will go into effect on August 28, 2017 and will apply prospectively to any claims filed after that date.

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