A Tradition of Helping Workers
While insurance for business purposes has been around for thousands of years, the idea of protecting workers is a relatively new concept. The Industrial Revolution created an unusually dangerous working environment, and legislation was slowly introduced to provide workers with some form of protection. The various laws and acts introduced by different states and the federal government have a common objective of providing some form of benefits and compensation for injured workers. The Jones Act, Harbor Workers, Longshoremen’s Act, and the Federal Workers’ Compensation Act have been introduced over the years to expand the type of workers covered and the benefits offered. In fact, the Federal Employer’s Liability Act was adopted in 1908 after being championed by President Theodore Roosevelt. It provided protection for certain federal workers in hazardous jobs.
Shortly after that start, different states started exploring different approaches to provide similar protection and insurance programs. New York and Massachusetts were two of the first states to enact laws, but years of legal battles slowed the initial movement. By the end of WWII all the states in the nation had some form of what was called workman’s compensation. In Iowa, the Iowa Manufacturer’s Association (now the Iowa Association of Business and Industry), took the lead and established the Employers Mutual Casualty Company, Des Moines, Iowa in 1911. It still serves as the primary state agency for workers’ compensation management. Today, all 50 states and the various territories have some form of comprehensive workers’ compensation programs in place. These serve as the exclusive remedy for injured workers and also serve to protect employers from excessive damage suits and liabilities. The basic approach is to calculate risks and provide employers with a controlled cost for managing employee injuries and related costs.
At the root of all such programs is the funding of a pool of insurance by employers. The programs vary between private insurance companies, state-guaranteed funds, and hybrid programs with self-insurance characteristics. These programs are designed to be self-executing and are sometimes difficult to understand, but a large network of support groups and specialists are available to help injured workers protect their rights. For example, an employee can consult with an Iowa workers compensation lawyer for advice and assistance if they feel they are not receiving the care and help they deserve. While not perfect, the availability of workers’ compensation provides more protection for employees than any system ever created.