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Employee-relations
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Employee Relations.

In last year's regular session, bills were advanced that would have exposed employers to lawsuits and restricted their ability to manage their workforce efficiently and productively. Although this year's session is largely dedicated to legislation on fiscal matters, legislators may still file some of these anti-employer bills again, and LABI will continue to defend against them. The Employee Relations Council has succeeded in promoting legislation to make Louisiana's workers' compensation (WC) system more balanced and less costly while ensuring quality medical care for injured workers. However, there will likely be attempts to erode some of the WC reforms LABI has obtained. While opportunities for additional reform are not anticipated, LABI will be ready to capitalize them should they materialize.

Major Issues.


Employer Liability

The Issue: Should Louisiana employers be exposed to a greater risk of harassment by disgruntled employees through frivolous lawsuits?

LABI Position: Support legislation to limit employer liability doctrines, and oppose legislation that would expand employer liability. Support legislation to repair judicially imposed employer liability doctrines established contrary to legislative intent.

Reasoning: Such legislation would create a greater potential for businesses to be sued by disgruntled employees, costing employers considerable time and expense to defend themselves. The courts will not apply provisions frequently placed in these bills to make a plaintiff liable for a defendants' costs when the plaintiff files a “frivolous claim.” This is because plaintiffs will always be adjudged to have brought their cases “in good faith.” Furthermore, these bills place the burden on employers to prove that they are innocent of the alleged discrimination rather than on the employee to prove that such discrimination occurred.

Legislation to expand employer liability will retard Louisiana’s economic development. Site selection consultants look carefully at state laws governing workforce management. Businesses do not locate in states where they are more likely to be sued. The states of Mississippi, Alabama and Texas do not have these kind of laws on their books. If Louisiana does, where are businesses most likely to go?

 

Minimum Wage

The Issue:  Should Louisiana have a minimum wage law on its books that could be used to set a wage floor higher than the one established by Congress?

LABI Position: Oppose legislation establishing a state minimum wage.

Reasoning: A mandated minimum wage for Louisiana would send a horrible message to businesses in the rest of the country, harming our state’s economic development potential.  Corporate executives responsible for determining where to situate new facility sites or headquarters for their companies do not pick states that legislate employer wage rates.  Alabama, Mississippi and Texas do not have a minimum wage law setting a rate higher than the federal rate.

Proponents advocate a state minimum wage as a way to address poverty.  However, every independent study conducted on the subject has established that a minimum wage is more likely to exacerbate poverty. Government can tell employers what they shall—at a minimum—pay their workers, but it cannot tell them how many workers they must employ. Employers could choose to reduce their workforces to offset the negative impact of an artificial increase.  Others will seek a higher-skilled employee to fill the position, and the higher wage is likely to attract such individuals.  This deprives entry-level workers of the first rung of the ladder of opportunity, hurting the poorest of the poor. Some employers will offset the wage increase by reducing other benefits their employees currently receive.  Still others will simply move their business to a state without such a law or close their business down altogether.

Proponents are dismissive of these facts, claiming that they are exaggerated.  However, studies conducted by objective economists at the request of neutral parties have consistently found that employers take these actions when state or local governments arbitrarily impose a minimum wage higher than exists in the surrounding region.  The reason for such actions is simple.  In order to be competitive with similar businesses that are not required to pay a higher minimum wage, the impacted businesses must somehow absorb the cost of the increase. Proponents’ argument that a minimum wage increase will be passed along to the consumer is naïve.  It could, of course, be valid in cases where consumers have no other option.  However, such cases, in the face of rising interstate and global competition along with ever-expanding Internet sales, are increasingly rare.

 

Workers Compensation

The Issue: Can Louisiana’s WC law bring about better outcomes, particularly for workers’ recovery from their injuries and return to work, and thereby lower the cost of medical treatment and indemnity benefits, which is ultimately paid by employers?

LABI Position: Support legislation to strengthen Louisiana’s WC law, and oppose legislation that would expand WC coverage and increase costs to employers. Support legislation to provide for quality and appropriate medical treatment and ancillary services.  Support legislation that makes Louisiana’s WC system not only balanced and equitable but also one which is competitive with other states and which encourages a quicker return to work for injured employees. 

Reasoning: Louisiana’s WC system is supposed to assure quality medical care for injured workers and a level of benefits necessary to sustain them during their recovery. However, the system is not intended to allow malingering. Unfortunately, some injured workers get whipsawed in contests between insurers and attorneys, which can lead to a worsening of their injuries and an extended duration of their claims, neither of which benefits them or their employers, who pay the costs.

It is important that the system achieve better outcomes for injured workers. They should receive the care they need in a timely fashion. Employers should be more engaged to assist workers to return to work as soon as medically possible.

Louisiana’s WC law must not operate to the advantage of one side against the other. A level playing field has to exist in our legal system for those who pay for the benefits and those who receive these benefits. A new approach needs to be established to aid a worker’s return to work, one that incites employers to invest in a worker’s medical recovery instead of tending to exclude employers from it.

 


Current Issues.


Labor Relations: Support legislation to prohibit state and local government interference with employers’ rights and protections as provided under existing federal laws governing labor/management relations. Oppose any state legislation designed to weaken employers’ protections under existing federal laws governing labor/management relations.

Employment Compensation: Support legislation to protect employers’ right to establish employment compensation as they deem appropriate and oppose any erosion of existing rights.

Mandated Employee Benefits: Oppose any statutory intrusion into the area of employee/employer relationships, including but not limited to mandated benefits. Oppose any creation or expansion of government-mandated benefits under employer health plans except when there is a documented, actuarially positive cost/benefit for such mandates. Support state legislation that minimizes any adverse impact of federal health care mandates.

Government Contracting: Oppose any unreasonable administrative or legislative action pertaining to labor or employment law that would deny businesses the right to contract with government.

Workers’ Compensation: Work to pass and implement a competitive pharmacy formulary that is based on medical evidence, and that is designed to provide necessary medication to injured workers in order to prevent unnecessary drug prescribing and dispensing.

Unemployment Compensation: Support legislation to fine tune the UC law in Louisiana and eliminate employee and employer abuses. Oppose legislation that would expand UC coverage.

Workers’ Compensation: Defend the exclusive remedy and statutory employer provisions of the WC law.

Equal Employment Opportunity: Support equal employment opportunity by coordinating existing state and federal antidiscrimination laws, but oppose any legislation that would expand upon existing remedies and protections. Support the repeal of any laws that prohibit or limit employer rights.

Workforce Development: Support and assist the proper implementation of recent legislative reforms, as well as any additional necessary ancillary reforms, designed to transform Louisiana’s workforce development system to become market driven and employer connected by delegating to local workforce investment boards (WIBs) decision making and administration relative to training and employment programs while reserving oversight and funding responsibilities to a state commission.

Labor Relations: Support legislation that protects workers and employers from the adverse impacts of alterations or expansions to existing federal laws or regulations governing labor/management relations, especially any changes to weaken the equity of the current government-supervised secret ballot election procedure or replace it with a “card check” system subject to abuse.

Wage Records: Support full implementation of Act 822 of the 2012 regular session, allowing electronic access to wage records.

Workers’ Compensation: Study and amend as needed the WC confidentiality rules or laws to provide reasonable provisions governing both the protection and release of workers compensation information and employers’ access to information regarding current and past claims.

Noncompetition Agreements: Oppose any erosion of the statutes that protect businesses from unfair competition by allowing them to enter into noncompetition agreements with their employees, and support appropriate legislation to fine tune such statutes as necessary.

Worker Training: Study and develop legislation that would allow businesses – in particular, small businesses – better access and greater flexibility in the use of monies for worker training.

Collective Bargaining: Oppose legislation requiring collective bargaining and/or binding arbitration by any public body.

Workers’ Compensation: Promote prosecution of the crime of WC fraud and protect employers’ ability to defeat fraudulent claims.

Incumbent Worker Training Program: Oppose legislation that would continue funding for the IWTP below the dollar amounts and trust fund trigger points already existing in current law.

Employment Incentives: Support legislation that offers entry-level employee incentives to businesses involved with public works projects, provided that these projects will not require project labor agreements. Support legislation to allow employees referred by private employment agencies to qualify for purposes of employee incentives offered by the state.

Right-to-Work: Do everything necessary to maintain Louisiana as a Right-to-Work state, including opposing “agency shop” legislation, which would force non-union employees to pay dues to a union just like its members.

Prevailing Wage: Oppose any attempts by the Legislature to re-enact a prevailing wage law, which would result in the state or local governments paying more for goods and services than is paid by businesses in the private sector.

Employment-at-Will: Support legislation to ensure employment-at-will as a right of all Louisiana employers.

Second Injury Fund: Continue to assess the viability of the Second Injury Fund and support legislation to establish an equitable assessment method for its funding.

Drug-Free Workplace: Support legislation and promote administrative policies that make it easier for employers to maintain a drug-free workplace in Louisiana.

Forum Selection: Support legislation to protect and enhance the freedom to contract with respect to forum selection in the employment relationship.

Employee Leasing: Support legislation to ensure that professional employer organizations/employee-leasing firms do not insulate their clients from their WC and/or UC experience rating, and oppose any erosion of existing statutory protections.

Unemployment Compensation: Support legislation to coordinate federal and state laws defining taxable employment.

Workers’ Compensation: Support legislation equalizing all WC indemnity benefits to a percentage of after-tax income.

Workers’ Compensation: Support legislation to defend and enhance the proper utilization of the Medical Treatment Guidelines and to apply correct limitations and standards for the appeal process connected with review of the medical director’s decisions. 

Judicial Monitoring: Advise the employer community of judicial and administrative decisions that destroy the effectiveness of legislated reforms in WC.

Seminars: Plan and implement seminars on such issues as WC, UC, employer liability, private and public sector unionism, and employment and labor laws.

Workers’ Compensation: Update and publish the LABI WC Desk Book. Click here for information on purchasing the LABI WC Desk Book and the LABI UC Manual.

Unemployment Compensation: Update and publish the LABI UC Manual.

Workers’ Compensation: Support efforts to create an efficient and less costly WC market by encouraging continued growth and increased competition within the voluntary market.

 


Contacts.


Jim Patterson serves as Director of the Employee Relations Council. In this capacity his responsibilities include labor issues, such as workers' and unemployment compensation.

 

Jim Patterson

Director, Employee Relations Council,

Workers' Compensation Task Force &

Unemployment Compensation Task Force, LABI

jimp@labi.org
(225) 215-6657

Michael Morris

Chair, Employee Relations Council

Louisiana Homebuilders, SIF
michaelm@lhbasif.com

Ray Peters

Workers' Compensation Chair, WC Task Force

Roy O. Martin Lumber, LLC

ray.peters@royomartin.com