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Labor Department report urges greater worker protection

New Jersey employees may be interested in a report by the U.S. Department of Labor that has called for greater federal oversight into workers' compensation. The report was prepared after a series by Pro Publica and National Public Radio led to 10 Democratic lawmakers writing a letter to the agency asking for more protection for workers.

According to the report, many states have put laws and procedures in place over the last decade that have severely limited access to workers' compensation benefits. The agency says that these actions have put injured workers at much greater risk for poverty. Among other reforms, it calls for looking into federal minimum benefits and federal oversight and suggested reconvening a 1972 Nixon administration commission to broaden worker protections.

Among those who stated their opposition to federal intervention prior to the report's release were insurance companies and employers. After the release of the report, the American Insurance Association released a statement objecting to the idea on the grounds that state systems were more sensitive and responsive to changes in the local economy. However, the series that prompted the calls for federal oversight included workers who had been denied needed treatments and equipment such as surgeries and prosthetic devices or who had lost their homes.

As this report demonstrates, employers and workers' compensation laws do not always adequately protect workers. As a result, a worker who is injured on the job might want to consult an attorney to decide how to move forward. An attorney might be able to assist with the initial filing of paperwork and with any necessary appeals if the claim is disputed or denied.

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