Study recommends comp system for employees of war zone contractors
Michael LeRoy, law and labor professor at the university, said war zone contractors employ workers who now perform risky duties, such as transportation and security, that were once handled by the military and also routinely supervise troops on noncombat projects such as building roads and schools. However, when soldiers and civilians are killed or injured, LeRoy said contractors use the veil of government immunity and other war-related legal arguments to limit financial payouts.
For the study, researchers analyzed lawsuits filed by the wounded and survivors. Court cases reflected a range of wartime perils, LeRoy said, including civilians killed while transporting supplies, women raped by coworkers, and soldiers who suffered from exposure to deadly toxins while working for private contractors. He said the findings indicate that policymakers need to close coverage gaps that have emerged through the growing outsourcing of war, which saw 242,000 civilian workers augment 280,000 troops last year in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The study recommended a federal workers' compensation policy that would require American-based contractors to provide coverage for employees overseas, not just in the U.S.
"An employee or soldier who is injured while working for a U.S. contractor in a war zone should be treated no differently than a worker in Texas or California," LeRoy said. "The fact that it happened in Iraq shouldn't change the equation."
Workers' compensation in war zones, the study concluded, should cover soldiers as well as civilian employees. LeRoy said troops injured while working for contractors deserve the same compensation as their civilian counterparts, not just the government disability payments that are designed for combat-related injuries and account for the inherent risk of military service.
"Extending workers' compensation to foreign battlefields would provide fair compensation for injuries and also protect contractors from potentially costlier court judgments," he said. "Workers' compensation overseas would reflect the same compromise that was reached over 100 years ago in the U.S. when employers and unions had a rare moment of agreement and decided to shield companies from tort liability in exchange for an insurance system that adequately compensates injured workers."
Read more at the WORKERSCOMP ForumTM homepage.
June 7, 2010
Copyright 2010© LRP Publications