Comp crackdown

Despite an inaccuracy in her
speech, Lingle says workers'
comp needs to be made fair

By Richard Borreca

Gov. Linda Lingle wants to make sure that workers' compensation is not paid for cases where a worker suffered stress because of personnel actions taken in good faith against the worker.

State of Hawaii She mentioned such a case during her State of the State address Tuesday.

But Lingle corrected herself yesterday, noting that the case she mentioned was about an employee charged with insubordination, not stealing as she stated in the speech. The correction was also mentioned by Chief Justice Ronald Moon during his State of the Judiciary speech yesterday.

Moon said the Legislature amended the law so that "a claim for mental stress resulting solely from disciplinary action taken in good faith shall not be allowed and the Supreme Court has consistently held such claims to be noncompensatory."

But Lingle says she thinks there is still a problem, pointing to the case in which an employee was awarded workers' compensation for stress from being fired for insubordination.

"We want to make the system fair for both employers and works," Lingle said.

Randy Roth, Lingle's senior adviser, said: "The Governor feels very strongly that workers' comp laws were never intended to apply to situations like that.

"If an employer is acting reasonable and in good faith takes a personnel action, they should be able to do that without fear of the employee filing a workers' compensation claim," Roth said.

Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, Judiciary Committee chairwoman, said she thought the Legislature did change the law to deny workers from collecting workers compensation in discipline cases.

But Hanabusa, a labor lawyer, said claims could still be filed in cases of workers' stress from conditions other than discipline.

"Stress is a medical condition that can be derivative of work and that is what worker's compensation is all about.

"Stress isn't as visible as a broken arm, but it is still a medical condition," Hanabusa said.

State of Hawaii

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