Vermont: Bill would extend benefits to employees with emotional, mental injuries
The legislation, H.B. 81, would amend current law on occupational disease to include "a mental disease or injury" in the definition. Rep. Paul Poirier, D-Barre, who introduced the legislation to the House and referred the bill to the House Committee on Commerce, admitted that the bill has "aroused the ire of the insurance industry." He argued that the new legislation is necessary to protect workers who develop a mental illness as a result of their employment or experience a mental trauma at the workplace. Currently, Poirier said, there are no protections for these employees.
"Under my proposal, workers' compensation benefits would be extended to Vermonters who are traumatized or contract a mental illness directly related to their employment," Poirier said on his blog. "The legislation will create a parallel between the benefits a worker who is physically injured on the job receives and those benefits afforded to an employee who suffers a mental injury."
Insurance lobbyists believe the passage of the bill would lead to an increase in workers' comp costs and drastically raise the number of claims in the state. Those opposed to the change said they believe this increase could further hurt employers in the difficult economy.
Rep. Eileen Dickinson, R-St. Albans, said the bill could lead employers to discriminate against workers with a history of mental illness in the hiring process and also result in system abuse by employees who are unhappy with their employment.
March 12, 2009
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