June 29, 2016
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin has replaced the Workers’ Compensation Nominating Commission in a recent executive order with a shiny new model: the Workers’ Compensation Nominating Committee. This doesn't seem like a significant change to the common eye, but once looked into, this executive action is an obvious handout to business at the expense of injured workers. Since, the governor appoints judges from these nominations, the changes to the Workers Compensation Nominating Committee could mean big changes for someone injured on the job.
The Workers’ Compensation Nominating Committee provides appointment nominees for the job of Kentucky Administrative Law Judge approved by the Kentucky Senate. This is a long and bulky process, but it has huge implications on many lives. These judges are the people who decide how to rule on workers’ compensation cases and decide how much an injured worker will be compensated if at all. The Workers’ Compensation Nominating Committee is the first step in hiring these judges.
In Bevin’s executive order concerning workers’ compensation, he reduced the membership of the committee from seven attorneys to five and named four attorneys to sit on the committee. This has resulted in all but one of the attorneys, Charles E. McCoy of Owenton, sitting on the committee before the executive order to be fired. Bevin’s original executive order called for the firing of all former commission members, but after lawsuits from Teamsters Local 89, the Kentucky State AFL-CIO and other plaintiffs, Bevin compromised to keep only one.
This has enabled Bevin to overhaul an inherited committee made up of former Kentucky Governor Beshear’s appointments. Kentucky’s state government has become more personalized to Bevin and has more resembled a mass firing than a policy change. Parties that have already sued Bevin are anticipating many more cases swaying towards employers rather than injured workers through this policy change.
Teamsters Local 89 General Counsel Robert Colone stated, “Local 89 and other legal experts feared that Bevin’s Executive Order was intended to replace qualified members of the Commission with individuals that would support his anti-worker agenda through the judicial nomination process.”