A city councilor recently announced a plan to cut Colorado Springs' workers' compensation paid to injured and ill city employees by a third. Councilor Randy Purvis called the 33 percent cut "a small amount."
The Colorado Springs Independent reports that Purvis's comments came after the release of a city auditor's report showing that in 2007-08, the city paid more than state law requires for employees who suffer a workplace injury or illness. The audit also showed that over a three-year period, Colorado Springs police officers and firefighters were paid $364,148 in workers' comp for injuries related to off-duty fitness activities.
What the Law Requires
Colorado law requires employers to pay employees who sustain work-related illnesses or injuries 66.67 percent of their pay. Because the state and federal governments don't tax workers' compensation, employees typically receive approximately what they would have earned if they weren't injured or ill.
Under the city's workers' compensation plan, employees receive their full salaries; also with no deductions for state or federal taxes.
Auditors called out compensation to city firefighters and police officers injured while exercising to maintain their fitness; an off-duty fitness program in place since at least 1997, the Independent reports.
Missing the Big Picture
While auditors can be skilled at crunching numbers, they sometimes fail to see the larger picture. Police Commander. Thor Eels told the newspaper that a number of police departments across the country have been sued because it's alleged that physically unfit officers turn to excessive force when trying to constrain citizens.
The city's physical fitness program helps keep officers and firefighters in shape, cutting down on-the-job injuries and illness, and also helping to prevent out-of-shape officers from resorting unnecessarily to the use of Tasers and guns and other weapons.
The proposed slash to benefits to injured workers is another example of a penny-wise and pound-foolish bureaucracy: cutting benefits that help keep overall costs, lawsuits and city liabilities down.
On the Backs of Injured Workers
The attempt to balance the city's budget on the backs of injured firefighters, police officers and other workers will save little money in the short run and may well cost Colorado Springs' taxpayers dearly in the long run.
If you're a Colorado Springs city employee who has suffered a work-related injury or illness, contact a Colorado workers' compensation attorney for an assessment of your case. A workers' comp lawyer can help determine your eligibility and fight for fair workers' compensation for your medical bills and lost income.