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WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BILLS STRENGTHENED: Bipartisan group supports first update to payment rates in 30 years

Several changes to legislation on Guam’s Workers’ Compensation law made in this session strengthen the first meaningful update to this important lifeline in 30 years.

“These updates to the Workers’ Compensation law mean we have bills that are better for the employees who deserve this safety net, stronger for the employers who provide this benefit, and are agreeable to a bipartisan majority of the legislature. I want to thank the stakeholders who offered these suggestions with good intentions, and my colleagues for considering them in good faith,” Senator Régine Biscoe Lee, the author of Bill No. 200-35 (COR) and Bill No. 201-35 (COR), said.

Changes to Bill No. 200-35 (COR), which seeks to update 30-year-old Workers’ Compensation rates, include:

1. Basing the minimum weekly compensation for disability to 66 and two-thirds percent of the prevailing minimum wage;
2. Basing all other minimum and maximum compensation amounts to reflect any per centum increases in the prevailing minimum wage;
3. Authorizing more than just the Guam Memorial Hospital Emergency Room to see government employees who want to file a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission;
4. Implementing a compromise effective date of 120 days after enactment of this law; and
5. Further adjusting the maximum weekly compensation for disability from $520 to $1,011.

“As policymakers, let’s not cheat people out of what is rightfully theirs. And if they are going to keep their livelihoods and not have their families or their lives crash because they are disabled and can’t work, let’s keep them whole,” Senator Mary Torres said during session Wednesday. “I want to be that honest, upright employer, and I pray to God that the rest of us do; so, let’s just do the right thing. This is a good bill, and I support it.”

Changes were also made to Bill No. 201-35 (COR), which updates and modernizes the process in which these claims are handled, challenged, and settled. These amendments include:

1. Imposing civil penalties, ranging between $250 to $25,000, for employers who violate the obligations required under Workers’ Compensation; and
2. Depositing civil penalties into the Guam Workers’ Compensation Special Fund.

“Every time a commission meeting is delayed by a month due to quorum issues, both sides of a Workers’ Comp. dispute have to shell out more money to keep their lawyer on the case. And that’s the fate of those fortunate enough to not run out of income in the meantime—how much worse for the employees and businesses who zero out their savings and checking accounts waiting for the government to do what’s right,” Senator Lee said.

Both Bill Nos. 200-35 (COR) and 201-35 (COR) are slated to be voted on before session adjourns.

For more information, please contact the Office of Senator Régine Biscoe Lee at (671) 472-3455 or via email at senatorbiscoelee@guamlegislature.org.

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