June 15, 2021
More Than a Century of Protecting the Rights of Employees and Employers by Ensuring the Proper Delivery of Benefits and Promoting Compliance with the Law
Today, the New York State Workers' Compensation Board held its 1000th meeting of the Full Board, a historic milestone in New York State's ongoing efforts to champion and protect the rights of injured workers. A recording of the meeting, which was streamed live, is now available on the Board's website. The Full Board, a 13-member panel of commissioners appointed by the governor and approved by the New York State legislature, has one purpose: to protect the rights of employees and employers by ensuring the proper delivery of benefits to injured workers and by promoting compliance with the law.
"It's been the honor of my life to serve my fellow New Yorkers as Chair of the Board," said Chair Clarissa M. Rodriguez. "During my tenure, we've been driven by the singular aim to create a Board that's better for workers, better for employers, and just all-around better. We've expanded coverage and increased benefits, improved and extended health care options, reduced employer costs and created a more efficient system so injured workers get the timely care and lost wage benefits they need."
Led by a Chair and Vice Chair, the Board members represent diverse regions of the State, occupations, experiences, and perspectives, which are brought to bear on the thousands of workers' compensation determinations made each year. These cases, and other important business, are the subject of the public monthly Full Board meetings.
"As we pass this historic milestone of 1,000 meetings, I look forward to the Board members' crucial services continuing," said Acting Executive Director David F. Wertheim. "Their work allows the Board to build upon its legacy of ensuring a fair and efficient workers' compensation system that works for the people of New York State."
"The New York State Workers' Compensation Board is charged with a sacred duty - ensuring that injured workers promptly receive all of the care and benefits they are entitled to under the law," said Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO. "The New York State AFL-CIO values the work of the Board and its staff to fulfill this obligation to New York's workers and looks forward to working with the Board's renewed leadership, to achieve this imperative. Congratulations to the Board on this milestone event."
The history of New York's workers' compensation system dates back more than a century. New York adopted one of the nation's first workers' compensation laws in 1910. It was struck down in 1911, the day before 146 people perished in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City, the worst industrial disaster in New York in the 20th century. The tragedy galvanized labor interests and led to a constitutional amendment allowing for laws to "protect the lives, health and safety of workers," including the creation in 1914 of the New York State Workmen's Compensation Commission, today known as the Workers' Compensation Board.
Before New York State's current workers' compensation law, when a worker was injured, the only remedy was to sue their employer, who often used traditional defenses available in tort litigation to avoid liability. Today, New York has a no-fault workers' compensation insurance system that provides both medical care and cash benefits to people who are injured or made ill on the job. Over the past century, the Board has continued to deliver these benefits while making enhancements that are better for workers and better for business. These advancements include protecting workers who file or attempt to file a claim from discrimination; raising lost wage benefits; monitoring payers to ensure timely benefit payments; and leveraging technology to make workers' compensation more accessible, including the rollout of virtual hearings, which allowed the Board to continue the hearing process, uninterrupted, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Board is also in the process of building a new web-based business information system that will replace its multiple, legacy paper-based systems. Information about the Board and its most recent initiatives can be found at wcb.ny.gov.