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Montana 2021 Legislature

House Committee Hears Bill Changing Workers’ Comp

Lawmakers heard testimony Tuesday on a bill that would require employees to disclose any pre-existing conditions that are “relevant to the essential function of the job."

Under current law, employers must ask potential employees if they can do the job. Senate Bill 118, sponsored by Sen. Terry Gauthier, R-Helena, would instead put the onus on employees to report their abilities to their employer. 

An employee could also lose their workers' compensation benefits if they misrepresent their needs. 

Supporters like Brad Roy, representing Kalispell Regional Healthcare, say the bill would help businesses prevent fraud and better accommodate their employees.

“With disclosure of this information, an employer can better understand an employee’s limitations and then make the necessary accommodations,” Roy said.

The Senate Committee on Business, Labor, and Economic Affairs heard testimony from nine supporters and two opponents to the bill. 

Opponents had concerns about what defines a relevant condition, and whether workers should be responsible for knowing what those relevant conditions are ahead of hiring. 

Lucas Wallace, a workers' compensation lawyer in Helena, also raised questions about employees receiving due process under the bill. He said employees would be guilty of misreporting conditions until proven innocent.

James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.