On January 27, 2011, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced her office’s legislative agenda for the coming year which will include filing nine new bills tackling subjects as varied as Manslaughter to Second Metals Dealing. The Attorney General noted that ” These bills tackle a number of important challenges in our Commonwealth, including protecting public safety, addressing the foreclosure crisis to help our economic recovery, and more effectively combating fraud and corruption…these new laws would assist our efforts and others across the Commonwealth.”
Among the nine bills to be filed include “An Act Relative to Worker’s Compensation Insurance.” The bill is being sponsored by Senators Katherine Clark, a Democrat from Melrose and Majority Whip Ronald Mariano, a Democrat from Quincy. The bill would update the law and “…to make the crime of failure to have workers’ compensation insurance consistent with workers’ compensation insurance fraud.” Under the current law, failure to have workers’ compensation insurance of any type at all is a misdemeanor whereas having workers’ compensation insurance and then committing fraud is a felony.
As it stands now, the Attorney General’s office contends that these two laws are inconsistent and “…the proposed amendment will remedy the inconsistency by making the failure to have workers’ compensation insurance a felony rather than a misdemeanor.” The Act also looks to increase the the penalty for failure to obtain workers’ compensation insurance to one of not more than five years in prison or a fine of not more than $10,000 or both.
Garrett Harris, an attorney at ForbesGallagher, says there are a couple of ramifications that could result from a change in this law. “Agents [and brokers] will want to be more diligent in advising their clients of the consequences of not carrying workers’ compensation insurance.” Attorney Harris went on to say that changes to this law also should force many small and medium size employers, especially in the construction industry, to rethink their policy of either electing not to buy or allowing their workers’ compensation insurance to cancel or lapse in order to save money. “Currently, even if a company is caught without workers’ compensation and is prosecuted by the DIA or AG’s office they can generally resolve the problem with a relatively modest fine. If the AG’s office is truly able to begin prosecuting these matters as felonies, and in fact does so, the consequences are potentially that much more severe.”
If would like legal advice or representation on a workers’ compensation issue, please contact us here.