According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Consumer Price Index calculator, what you bought for $100 in 1973 would today cost $533.82. Despite this, during that same period wage growth for the median hourly worker grew by less that 4%.
That’s how yesterday’s Workers’ Comp Insider’s blog post begins. Fifty States, Fifty Different Laws underscores the sobering reality that many hourly workers in America live perilously close the edge of the financial cliff, one crisis away from homelessness.
The Insider’s post analyzes “The Uncompensated Worker,” a Special Report from WorkCompCentral’s Peter Rousmaniere. The highly readable, but detailed, report illustrates how workers in every state take a pay cut when injured and out of work. Because all state laws are different, the pay cut can be minimal in a few states and catastrophic in many others.
At Workers Compensation Psychological Network, we see workers who, in addition to struggling to recover from a work injury, are also walking on the edge of an economic razor blade. These workers are deeply fearful that their injuries might lead to their families being forced to bunk under a bridge. Mr. Rousmaniere’s report shows that even short-term injuries can lead to deprivation. For instance, a 50-state chart at the end of the report shows that if an injured worker incurs only a brief disability – say, three, six or ten days – some of the provisions of New Jersey’s workers’ comp law (the calendar days waiting period before indemnity can begin, for example), will force a pay cut of 28% for that period.
As psychologists and neuropsychologists, we are mindful that helping these vulnerable people return to work as quickly as medically possible could spell the difference between financial stability and financial disaster. The mental health benefits of such an outcome are, quite frankly, immeasurable.
That’s why our overarching goal is now and always will be Recovery: Sooner, Faster, Smarter.