The jobs of 16 state workers’ compensation system employees were eliminated Wednesday as Oklahoma continues the transition from a court-based workers’ compensation system to an administrative system.
Wednesday’s job cuts dropped the number of state workers’ compensation system employees from 75 employees to 59, said Rick Farmer, executive director of the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission.
All of the affected employees were offered voluntary buyouts and some are still considering the offer, Farmer said.
Gov. Mary Fallin said system changes were needed to to improve efficiency and make the state more business-friendly.
“For decades, Oklahoma has had one of the most expensive and inefficient workers’ compensation systems in the country,” Fallin said in a news release. “Our new system is more efficient, less costly and will ultimately help to create jobs by reducing costs that have been hurting small businesses in Oklahoma for years.”
Fallin described the old court-based system as “a constant obstacle for businesses looking to expand operations or create more jobs.” She said the State Chamber of Oklahoma has estimated recent workers’ compensation changes will save Oklahoma businesses $263 million a year.
Converting from a court-based workers’ compensation system to an administrative system involves a complex transition.
A Court of Existing Claims was formed to allow judges to continue to handle cases involving injuries that occurred prior to Feb. 1 Meanwhile, a Workers’ Compensation Commission was created to administratively handle new claims involving on-the-job injuries that occur on or after that date.
During Wednesday’s reorganization, 31 employees, including six judges, were assigned to the Court of Existing Claims, while 28 employees were assigned to the administrative Workers’ Compensation Commission, Farmer said. The old Workers’ Compensation Court had 10 judges.
The number of employees dedicated to the Court of Existing Claims is expected to gradually be reduced as its caseload dwindles, with the court scheduled for elimination in 2020.
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