How Did Worker’s Compensation Come About?
There are very few people alive today who can remember a time before workers’ comp laws. These laws have fundamentally changed the balance between employers and employees, ensuring that laborers are fairly compensated for workplace injuries without fear of termination. But how did workers’ compensation law come about? The truth is that it’s been a long, long road of lawsuits and sacrifice stretching back more than 140 years.
Let’s go back, way back. The year is 1885, the height of the Second Industrial Revolution. In sweltering textile shops, workers collapse from exhaustion. On the transcontinental railroad, nearly every seasoned train operator is missing a finger. These workers have no protection under the law, no one they can turn to when they’re seriously injured on the job.
In Prussia (now Germany), Otto Von Bismarck passes laws granting workers insurance against sickness and workplace accidents. The idea gradually goes west, spreading across Europe and then the Atlantic ocean. Thirty years and thousands of lawsuits later, US states look to passing the first workers' comp laws in the early 1910s. Because of these laws, injured and crippled laborers can see justice and lost wages for injuries caused by unsafe working conditions. By 1921, 42 states had passed laws protecting their workforce.
Now, a full century later, US workers have strong protection under the law. The days of US factories with dangerously unsafe machinery are reserved for history books. In California, injured laborers are often entitled to workers' comp regardless of who was at fault for the accident. That means there’s an incentive for businesses to provide a safer workplace and better on-the-job training to prevent these incidents.
Sadly, workers’ comp laws moved west, but not east or south. Even today, in 2020, much of the developing world is still without workers’ compensation laws, often leaving injured factory workers’ to fend for themselves or find a new job.
Since the early days of workers' comp in the US, we’ve moved toward stronger and stronger protections for the injured. Now, workers can claim lost wages while recovering from their injuries and they can’t be fired just for filing a claim.
These changes have fundamentally shifted the balance of power in the workplace, ensuring that the injured are able to fight for justice against the largest companies in the world.
If you’d like to schedule a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney from The Law Office of Delitala, please don’t hesitate to send us an email or call (888) 676-0125 to get started.