1913 Oregon Legislative Assembly gave Oregon its first workers'
compensation law, which became effective July 1, 1914. This
law set up a State Industrial Accident Commission (SIAC), consisting
of three trustees, to oversee the Industrial Accident Fund.
Employers in hazardous occupations had to decide whether to
be part of the fund. Contributors to the fund could not be sued;
suits were brought against the commission. Noncontributors,
on the other hand, had no common-law defenses, and the Employer
Liability Act made them vulnerable to unlimited damages for
worker injuries or illnesses. Employers in nonhazardous occupations
also could contribute to the fund and get the benefits.
1965, the Legislature overhauled the law. Most employers came
under the Workmen's Compensation Law with this change, effective
Jan. 1, 1966. Two years later, all employers came under this
law if they employed subject workers. Employers could buy the
commission's insurance, self-insure, or insure with private
companies. The SIAC was renamed Workmens' Compensation Board,
and its insurance function was given to the State Compensation
Department, the forerunner of the State Accident Insurance Fund
(SAIF) and SAIF Corp.
federal Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 gave rise
to the Oregon Safe Employment Act in 1973. Its purpose was to
ensure safe and healthful working conditions for every working
man and woman in Oregon, to preserve our human resources, and
to reduce the substantial burden - in terms of lost production,
wage loss, medical expenses, disability compensation payment,
and human suffering - created by occupational injury and disease.
1977 Legislature reshuffled workers' compensation administration
and created a Workers' Compensation Department headed by a director
appointed by the governor. The Workers' Compensation Board,
continuing under gubernatorial appointment, supervised a Hearings
Division that settled contested cases under both workers' compensation
law and the Oregon Safe Employment Act.
1987 Legislature made substantial changes to workers' compensation
law. Chapter 884, Oregon Law 1987, heavily amended and enhanced
current law, and the Workers' Compensation Department became
a division of the new Department of Insurance & Finance.
1990, based on recommendations of the Labor/Management Task
Force appointed by the governor, the Legislature made substantial
changes to the law in a one-day special session. The legislature
enacted SB 1197 that was a comprehensive reform to the Workers'
Compensation Law. Major components of the reforms included an
increased focus on workplace safety, changes to the definition
of compensability, and creating managed care.
1993 Legislative session made only minor changes to the Oregon
workers' compensation system. These included HB 2282, which
addressed the regulation of employee leasing companies, and
HB 2285, which dealt with Oregon's 24-Hour Health Plan, a pilot
project that combined group health coverage with the medical
portion of workers' compensation. HB 3069 amended the public
records law to restrict access to claims history information
in certain circumstances when the information could be used
to discriminate against injured workers.
1995, more significant changes to the workers' compensation
system came with SB 369. The bill was designed, in part, to
restate and clarify many of the 1990 reforms that had been reversed
or overturned through case law. The bill addressed other provisions,
and the Department of Insurance & Finance was reorganized
and renamed the Department of Consumer & Business Services.
1997, HB 2971 revised ORS 656.262, affecting the issuance of
notices of acceptance and the processing of new compensable
1999, the Legislature passed HB 2830, which required Oregon
OSHA to revise its method for scheduling workplace inspections
and notify certain employers of an increased likelihood of inspection.
1999 legislative session saw relatively minor changes to the
Oregon workers' compensation system. However, SB 460 repealed
most sunsets placed in the law by SB 369 in 1995. One exception
to the sunset repeal was the exclusive-remedy provision. With
limited exception, workers' compensation is the sole remedy
for covered workers with injuries and illnesses that arise out
of and in the course of their employment. The Legislature directed
the Workers' Compensation Division to commission a study on
the effects of and the costs and savings to the Oregon workers'
compensation system of major-contributing cause and combined-condition
2001 legislative session saw the passage of another complex
and comprehensive workers' compensation bill, SB 485. The law
changes included those agreed upon by labor and management to
correct imbalances or problems with the workers' compensation
system. Issues addressed included: tort claims against an injured
worker's employer; definition of pre-existing conditions and
their applicability to arthritis or arthritic conditions; increased
permanent partial disability rates; contributory negligence
as an employer defense; reduced time during which claims may
be denied or accepted; increased temporary disability benefits;
supplemental disability for multiple-job workers; Workers' Compensation
Board own-motion claim-reopening process and reimbursement from
Workers' Benefit Fund for claim re-openings in own motion. The
Management-Labor Advisory Committee was also directed to recommend
an exclusive, no-fault, expeditious alternative process and
remedy to the court system that addressed major-contributing-cause
2003, the legislature made a major change to how to determine permanent
partial disability (PPD) benefits. The PPD benefits changed to rate
injuries to body parts in relation to the "whole person."
Workers with permanent disability received an "impairment benefit"
equal to the percentage of impairment multiplied by 100 times the
state average weekly wage. Workers unable to return to regular work
also received a work disability benefit based on the percentage
of impairment, modified by age, education, and adaptability factors,
multiplied by 150 times the worker's weekly wage at the time of
injury. When computing the amount of the work disability benefit
using the worker's weekly wage, the wage amount is confined to an
amount 50 percent to 133 percent of the state average weekly wage.
2005 legislature addressed the process for insurer-requested
independent medical examinations. The bill required insurers
to select an independent medical examination provider from a
department-developed list and set specific criteria in order
to be on the list of qualified providers. Workers were allowed
to appeal the reasonableness of an exam location and obtain
an expedited review by the department. The law also provided
sanctions against medical service providers who fail to provide
diagnostic records in a timely manner and also imposed a monetary
penalty against a worker who failed to attend an independent
legislature also changed the standard for establishing permanent
total disability benefits, as well as for terminating or rescinding
those benefits. The law set an earnings threshold to determine
what constitutes "gainful" employment linked to the
federal poverty guidelines. Workers could appeal the reversal
of their permanent total disability benefits and maintain their
benefits while the appeal progressed. The law also entitled
workers to vocational assistance if their permanent total disability
benefits are terminated.
2007, the legislature revisited several significant policy areas.
They repealed the sunsets on the permanent partial disability
benefits that were changed in 2003 and 2005. The legislature
also made permanent the expanded role of nurse practitioners
in the workers' compensation system by allowing them to provide
compensable medical services to injured workers for up to 90
days, authorize time loss for up to 60 days, release the worker
to work, and manage the worker's return to work in that time
legislature also expanded the role of chiropractic physicians,
podiatric physicians, naturopathic physicians, and physician
assistants in the workers' compensation system. They allowed
these providers to serve as attending physicians for up to 60
days or 18 visits, whichever comes first. In addition, the four
provider groups were allowed to authorize time loss for up to
30 days and manage the worker's return to work during that period.
2009, based in part on a legislatively requested report from
the Management-Labor Advisory Committee, the legislature improved
the benefits provided to beneficiaries when a worker is killed
on the job or dies while he or she is permanently and totally
disabled from a work injury. It increased final disposition
of the body and funeral expenses from 10 to 20 times the state
average weekly wage and established the benefit as a set amount.
It also made other technical changes to improve the benefit
delivery process, clarify benefits paid when a worker dies before
his or her full permanent partial disability award is paid,
and created a new level of benefits for children who have no
2011, the legislature made podiatrists full attending physicians,
allowing them to treat an injured worker without time or visit
restrictions. The legislature made changes to how certain medical
payments can be made under a disputed claim settlement.
legislature also authorized the department to take administrative
action against a person or company that is actively managing
the care of workers when that person or company is not certified
as a managed care organization. The department will be able
to address these violations by imposing civil penalties and
issuing cease-and-desist orders.